When Jenny, a teen beauty pageant winner, is brutally raped and murdered, no one in her small Massachusetts town can believe the violence, and the grief tears through the entire community. The loss threatens the façade of her parents’ solid marriage and further erodes the tenuous relationship Virginia, Jenny’s stepsister, has with her father and her stepmother, Linda.
Immediately, the police focus on Benjy Lincoln, a man who had followed Jenny’s pageant career and attended many of her competitions. Virginia, however, doubts his motive and ability to carry out the crime and decides to investigate the killing to atone for her distant relationship from her much younger stepsister. However, as much as she wants to find the culpable party, she has secrets she wants to keep buried—and she isn’t the only one with information to hide. Virginia’s questions put her on a course to detonate the defenses she and others have constructed around their carefully constructed personas.
Virginia narrates her timeline in first person while Jenny’s timeline, five weeks before the murder until the night she died, is told in third person, and the parallel stories play interestingly off each other as they reveal different aspects of or provide insight into the same characters and events. Towards the end of the novel, though, I thought the narrative got a little bogged down in details and repetition. I also found the writing style off-putting as most sentences had very similar structure (subject-verb) throwing off the rhythm.
Usually, thrillers and mysteries are my comfort genre, but The Prized Girl has left me feeling very sad for the characters and the implications of their decisions. It’s possible to relate this to the toxic effect of one character’s behavior, but I don’t know if that’s how the author intends the reader to feel after finishing the book.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Dutton for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.