Michael Robotham is one of my favourite Aussie authors. I really enjoy his writing, his story-telling and the characters he offers. He wrapped up a nine-book series featuring clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin via The Other Wife last year.
And here Robotham introduces a forensic psychologist who apparently briefly popped up in The Secrets She Keeps and it’s a wonderful start to (what I assume to be) a new series.
Good Girl, Bad Girl
by Michael Robotham
Published by Hachette Australia
on July 23rd 2019
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller / Suspense
Six years ago, Evie Cormac was discovered, filthy and half-starved, hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a shocking crime.
Now approaching adulthood, Evie is damaged, self-destructive and has never revealed her true identity.
Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven, a man haunted by his own past, is investigating the death of champion figure-skater Jodie Sheehan.
When Cyrus is called upon to assess Evie, she threatens to disrupt the case and destroy his ordered life. Because Evie has a unique and dangerous gift - she knows when someone is lying. And nobody is telling the truth.
Long story short: I loved Cyrus and I loved Evie. The latter is harder to love as she’s kinda complex but Robotham’s created some great characters here and given both amazing backstories.
Evie’s being kept in a youth detention centre of sorts when we meet her… mainly because there’s no where else for her to go. An old University colleague of Cyrus’s knows of his interest in ‘truth wizards’ and believes Evie to have that ability. (Here in Australia we’d call them bullshit detectors!)
Cyrus is skeptical about the consultation because his Uni thesis kinda disproved the existence of human lie detectors, other than those (like cops, teachers etc) who perhaps have gleaned a gut-instinct honed from years of experience.
Interestingly and perhaps slightly weirdly, the actual ‘whodunit’ here felt kinda like the sub-plot, rather than the focus of the book. Although Cyrus consults on the case, Evie has only a peripheral connection.
Teenage murder victim Jodie was a skating champion and – by all accounts – a good girl, but Cyrus and the police officer who helped him when his family was killed, now a DCI (Lenny Pavel), soon discover Jodie had her secrets.
So I was probably less interested in the murder – which felt like it was resolved fairly quickly despite being slightly convoluted – than I was in the stories around Evie and Cyrus. I initially assumed Evie’s backstory was going to be the case featured in this book but Robotham has used this novel to drop us (mid-way) into their lives and incite our interest.
We’re also introduced to a few interesting support actors, including Lenny, along with Evie’s lawyer and there’s also mention of Evie’s own ‘Lenny’… the volunteer constable who found Evie (The Girl in the Box / Angel Face) six years earlier.
Evie herself is seriously smart and very obviously has her secrets. My rough notes as I started reading this book say, “Love her but probably evil.” She’s certainly complex.
I don’t mind the name-calling because I’m harder on myself than any member of staff. Nobody can hate like I can. I hate my body. I hate my thoughts. I am ugly, stupid and dirty. Damaged goods. Nobody will ever want me.
The bully barks. The bully laughs. The bully wins. pp 17-18
Evie and Cyrus bond – both sharing shattered pasts but also with tendencies to cut through the crap and tell it like it is. I really enjoyed Cyrus’s take on his former Uni colleague and social worker at the detention centre, for example. And later…
As a forensic psychologist, I have met killers and psychopaths and sociopaths, but I refuse to define people as being good or evil. Wrongdoing is an absence of something good rather than something fated, or written in our DNA, or forced upon us by shitty parents, or careless teachers, or cruel friendships. Evil is not a state, it is a ‘property’, and when a person is in possession of enough ‘property’, it sometimes begins to define them. p 33
What develops between Cyrus and Evie is less of a therapist / client relationship but something more connected. He sees who she is, but believes she doesn’t want to be that way.
Evie looks at me with unexpected coldness, laying waste to something within me. Not for the first time, I recognise something missing inside her – a deficit or arrears. I have never met such a pure nihilist. She is like a new species of human, raised in almost total annihilating self-hatred that has destroyed any self-regard she may once have had. In her mind and heart she is an insult to the ground that she walks upon and the air that she breathes. All her strength, her mental faculties are telling her that she must hate the world; that she must smash it to pieces before it destroys her. p 308
So… it wasn’t that I was underwhelmed by the whodunit here, but I think it’s more the backstories and presence of our two leads just outshone that element of the plot. And in that regard I absolutely cannot wait to see where Robotham takes them. I want to know more about Evie’s captivity and the murder of young Cyrus’s family. (In fact, I’m unexpectedly impatient about both already. I want more. Now!)
Good Girl Bad Girl by Michael Robotham will be published in Australia by Hachette on 23 July 2019.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.