When nineteen-year-old Julia Carroll went missing one night in March 1991, the Carroll family would be forever fractured by the loss. Sam, the father and a veterinarian, spent his remaining years writing in his journal and constantly trying to spur the detectives on in their quest. But the detectives seemed to have decided early on that Julia had simply walked away from her life. Meanwhile, Helen, the mother and a librarian, buried her troubles under alcohol, and soon she and Sam were divorced.

Now, years later, the youngest daughter, Claire, is married and living a posh life with her architect husband, Paul Scott, in suburban Atlanta.

Lydia Delgado, the older sister and single mother to teenaged Dee, is a recovering addict, but her relationship with Claire ended years before when Claire did not believe an allegation Lydia had made against Paul.

One dark night in an alley, Paul and Claire are walking back toward their car, but take a detour for some lovemaking. Paul loves taking risks.

Paul is murdered, and in the aftermath, Claire begins to uncover her husband’s dark secrets, some of which are so horrific that she doesn’t know what to believe. Multiple narrators tell the story, and interspersed between them are excerpts from Sam Carroll’s journals, a homage to his daughter Julia.

But finding the secrets opens up the door between Claire and Lydia…so they, together, try to find answers.

Who can they trust? Are the cops and FBI agents, as well as powerful politicians, also part of what Paul has been hiding? Will the secrets continue to unfold to reveal greater depths of evil until neither of them will live to tell about them?

Twists and turns kept me guessing, even as around every corner, more stunning revelations would come. The more I thought I knew about the intricacies of the plot, the more I was startled to find additional layers. What had really happened to Julia? Who was the mastermind behind the brutal slayings of pretty young girls? And why did it seem as though Paul was still pulling the strings?

Pretty Girls: A Novel was an intense plot-driven novel with graphic violence, its dark underbelly hidden behind the façade of wealth and privilege. Not a book for the faint of heart, but definitely a compelling and twisted mystery. 4.5 stars.


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