By Susan Strecker
Susan Strecker’s novel provides readers with a finely blended balance of psychological thriller, romance (and the absence of said), and personal insecurities, enough to attract and hold the attention of most readers, except, perhaps, those who like their mysteries hard boiled, propulsive, and violent. Her’s is a mystery with a gentler nature, thoughtful and compelling.
Ten years pervious to the start of the novel, narrator Cady’s sister Savannah is found strangled to death in the woods of fictional Stanwich, NJ (situated near Princeton, which makes several appearances in the book). Cady and Savannah were twins very much in tune with each other. The day of Savannah’s death, Cady senses Savannah calling out to her, and it is Cady who alerts the police. After an initial investigation, the they determined that Savannah died at the hands of a stranger passing through town, possibly a serial killer. However, some force members, particularly Patrick Tunney, believed the case demanded a more thorough investigation. Upon the early retirement of the police chief under a cloud of corruption, Patrick immediately reopens the case and seeks Cady’s help.
Savannah’s murder proved to be a permanently traumatic experience for Cady. Early on, she came close to taking her own life, then spent time in a psychiatric hospital. She finally learned to cope with her feeling, primarily by writing murder mysteries, becoming a bestselling novelist. She also married a psychiatrist and as the novel rolls along we learn more about her troubled marriage to Greg. While her parents dealt with their daughter’s murder by moving away, Cady could not bring herself to leave Stanwich, could not separate herself from her sister, whom she felt she might have saved if only she’d acted faster, if only she’d known more about Savannah’s activities.
Cady tells the story and through her we learn that Savannah was quite a wild child. She enjoyed living life on the edge, living beyond her years, and especially loved having sex with any boy who came her way, of which there were many as she was a beautiful girl. Though twins, Cady never thought herself a match for her sister. After her sister’s death, Cady deliberately gained weight, a psychologically driven tactic to fend off the same fate as her sister; thus we hear often and in detail about her insecurities, her weight issues, and her resentment of her sister.
As she’s reliving the death of her sister helping Patrick Tunney, coping with her dissolving marriage to Greg, and writing a new murder mystery involving a serial killer, a new man enters the picture, a former high school acquaintance, Brady, who now works as a correction officer. Cady implores him to help her get an interview with a notorious serial killer of young girls. An attraction develops between the Brady and Cady, though Cady’s insecurities flare up, as well as guilt over stepping out on Greg, himself no innocent victim in this department.
As in any good who done it, Strecker tosses in enough red herrings to keep readers guessing up to the end, and when you’re pretty sure you know the killer, she springs the truth on you. Astute readers with have their suspicions, so the ending doesn’t come completely out of left field.
Most will find Nowhere Girl entertaining from start to finish as a mystery, as well as a piece of women’s fiction enriched with everyday insecurities and romance. w/c