Girls! Girls! Girls! Here at CrimeReads we are concerned about you, the self-isolated crime fan, who wants to download some e-books or order real books to keep you entertained (and distracted) during these trying times. Although we started our disambiguation project before the world changed it seems more necessary than ever now: people need their diversions, and I’m here to give you some guidance by telling you about another crop of girl books. Don’t worry, titles aren’t like hand sanitizer—there’s plenty more where this came from.
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins (2015)
What, you think we forgot the third most pervasive girl book of the aughts (after Gone Girl and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)? No, we were just saving it for later, like when you only read a chapter of something per night to make it last longer (I think the last time I did that was with Lisa Taddeo’s brilliant Three Women, but let’s not go on a woman book tangent). Hawkins won plotting comparisons with masters like Patricia Highsmith and hot newcomers like Gillian Flynn, and her unstable, bitter, alcoholic narrator resembles any number of hard-boiled detectives, a comparison I never saw made. Early takeaway from this installment of our disambiguation project: whether the author of a girl book is male or female dictates the company they keep, whether they get to play cards and drink brandy after dinner with the men or have to scrape dishes or drink sherry with the ladies.
The Missing Girl, by Jenny Quintana (2017)
OK, so this teenage girl disappeared. Her name is Gabriella, and her younger sister, Anna, is still scarred by what happened. After their mother dies, Anna has to sort through the family’s possessions, and in turn becomes possessed with what happened to her sister. This is not to be confused with…
The Missing Girl, by Norma Fox Mazer (2008)
Mazer’s book also features sisters: Beauty, Mim, Stevie, Fancy, and Autumn Haden. These sisters are being watched by a super creep, the kind of guy you want to keep your sisters far away from. Basically, if you are a girl and you don’t want to go missing, you have to stay vigilant all of the time—but, sadly, in our culture most girls instinctively know this. They don’t need to read a book to learn what could happen.
Girl Missing, by Tess Garritsen (1994)
This is really not about a girl who’s missing, it’s about what happens when the girl is found. Kat Novak, a Boston medical examiner, has a girl on her table who is young, beautiful, and clutching a notebook with seven numbers written inside it. When another girl winds up on Novak’s table, she suspects a serial killer is responsible—but there is nothing to tie the two crimes together. Doing some investigating herself (and why not? Kay Scarpetta always did it) Novak runs the risk of becoming the next victim.
The Third Rainbow Girl, by Emma Copely Eisenberg (2019)
Vicki Durian, 26, and Nancy Santomero, 19, were passing through Pocahontas County, West Virginia on the night of June 25, 1980. They were murdered in an isolated location in the Appalachian Mountains. As the girls were on their way to a festival called the Rainbow Gathering, the murders quickly became the Rainbow Murders. In 1993, after nearly everyone in town had been under suspicion, the police arrested a local farmer, who was released when a serial killer confessed to the murders. Eisenberg’s subtle true crime book, which looks at how the community is affected by the murders, is a bracing palate cleanser between fictional girl books.
The Girl You Gave Away, by Jess Ryder (2020) and
The Girl Who Came Back, by Kerry Wilkinson (2017)
These books don’t have anything to do with each other, but I saw the titles on the same search page and thought, why not write them up together? First, let’s talk about The Girl Who Came Back. Olivia Adams was taken when she was six years old, and her disappearance shook the small English village of Stoneridge. Yes, it’s my beloved Martin Guerre plot again! Everyone is curious about where Olivia has been when she reappears seven years later—no one more so than her mother. In The Girl You Gave Away, it’s Erin’s fortieth birthday, and she has the perfect party planned; she’s mingling and laughing and generally having a swell time. But everything changes when a red envelope appears, a birthday card from someone Erin hoped to never hear from again.
Vanishing Girls, by Lauren Oliver (2015)
Sisters Dara and Nick were both beautiful, bright girls, inseparable in that way that only young girls can be. But everything changes when Dara is in an accident and disfigured. When she disappears on her birthday, Nick thinks she is just kidding, trying to have some fun. But then another nine-year-old girl Madeline Snow, goes missing, and Nick becomes convinced Madeline’s disappearance is related to Dara’s—and she is the only one who can solve this mystery.
The Crow Girl, by Erik Axel Sund (2016)
Let’s get this list a little grungy with this international Swedish success. When an immigrant boy—nice change—is found murdered in a downtown Stockholm park, Detective Superintendent Jeanette Kihlberg heads up the complex investigation. As the police build their case two other children are found murdered, and Kihlberg is convinced they are connected to the first boy. Kihlberg knows she needs help, but turns to an unlikely source: therapist Sofia Zetterlund, an expert in the psychopathology of those who kill. As the women’s lives become entwined, they are confronted by the worst of Swedish society.
The French Girl, by Lexie Elliott (2017)
In Elliott’s clever and creepy novel, six former Oxford friends are thrust back to a vacation they spent together at a French villa which culminated in a huge fight on their last night there. Right after they returned to the UK their neighbor in France, Severine, went missing. They were questioned at the time of her disappearance but released. Fast forward a decade and a body is found. The police believe it is Severine, and a French detective pays a visit to each of the guests that weekend, which unsettles our narrator, Kate Channing, one of the group of friends who might be seeing Severine’s ghost. The police inquiry forces the friends to come clean to each other about what really happened at the house in France.