Amy Suiter Clarke, author of Girl, 11 was born in America, studied in England but now lives in Melbourne. And everyone knows how much we Aussies like to adopt people born elsewhere as our own.
Suiter Clarke’s debut novel centres around the popular world of true crime podcasting. And like others who have offered similar books Suiter Clarke manages to balance past crimes – revealed via podcast interviews and research – with the events of the present. Indeed here it’s done particularly well as there’s a lag in revealing the podcast episodes that have aired when we first meet our characters. They’re referenced so there’s some foreshadowing of what’s to come but it’s timed perfectly to offer readers only a little insight into the fate that’s about to befall our characters.
by Amy Suiter Clarke
Published by Text Publishing Company
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller / Suspense
Once a social worker specializing in kids who were the victims of violent crime, Elle Castillo is now the host of a popular true crime podcast that tackles cold cases of missing children in her hometown of the Twin Cities. After several seasons of successfully solving cases, Elle decides to tackle her white whale—The Countdown Killer.
Twenty years ago, TCK abruptly stopped after establishing a pattern of taking and ritualistically murdering three girls over seven days, each a year younger than the last. No one’s ever known why—why he stopped with his eleventh victim, a girl of eleven years old, or why he followed the ritual at all.
When a listener phones in with a tip, Elle sets out to interview him, only to discover his dead body. And within days, a child is abducted following the original TCK MO. Unlike the experts in the media and law enforcement who have always spun theories of a guilty suicide, Elle never believed TCK had died, and her investigation was meant to lay that suspicion to rest. But instead, her podcast seems to be kicking up new victims.
I really liked Elle and her coroner husband Martin. I’d love to see more of them. Elle mentions that this is her fifth season of podcasting and I initially wondered if there’d been other books in the series. Of course there are reasons Elle picks the TCK case but there’s something about the way Suiter Clarke has developed the (lead and supporting) characters that make them seem as if they deserve more bookish outings. I certainly liked the healthy relationship between Elle and Martin which isn’t something I often see given the amount of domestic noir I read. The fact that Suiter Clarke builds a background for Elle with the police and her best friend (and neighbour) and their daughter also feels like it’s an investment worthy of revisiting.
Anyway… I guess that’s a slight spoiler that neither Elle nor Martin get killed off here, so… sorry about that.
Events of the book unfold via podcast script and narrative from Elle’s point of view. Later however, we do meet TCK and Suiter Clarke does a good job of not giving us too many hints as to their identity as they share their story.
I felt Elle’s motivation for her interest (or obsession) with TCK was kinda obvious but that didn’t matter because Suiter Clarke times the ‘reveal’ well. And similarly the final sequences of the book aren’t drawn-out excessively which is often a frustration of mine. The pacing felt spot-on here.
I enjoyed this debut release by Suiter Clarke and hope to read more of her work. (Even if it isn’t more in the podcasting series with Elle and Martin.)
Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke published in Australia by Text Publishing and is now available.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.
** I’ve used Suiter Clarke as Amy’s surname and apologise if it should just be Clarke!