One of our dozen Top Aussie Reads of 2016
The Ghost Girls Synopsis :
Winter in Sydney. The city is brimming with foreign students. Sophie Sandilands takes a job teaching at an English language school. When one of her students leaps to her death it becomes clear that lurking within the psyche of this community is a deep sense of despair and alienation. When it is revealed that the dead woman on the pavement has stolen another’s identity, Sophie is drawn into the mystery.
Unable to resist the investigative instincts that run in her blood, Sophie finds herself unravelling a sinister operation that is trawling the foreign student market for its victims. But as Sophie works on tracking down the criminals it becomes evident that someone has knowledge of her and the disappearances in her own past. Will Sophie solve the mystery before she too becomes a ghost?
Ghost Girls richly evokes the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of Sydney’s Chinatown, and imagines dark exploitative demands behind closed suburban doors.
Quality fiction can entertain us or challenge us, the characters can take us on an emotional journey we may not otherwise experience or the story’s setting or subject matter will cause us to give greater consideration to our own opinions and actions… but rare is it that a ‘thriller’ will achieve all of these things.
Ghost Girls is a novel with impact — an important story told in a powerful way.
Ferla’s character development is highly effective, but economical in both prose and timing. The novel is comprised of short chapters that provide windows (sometimes only glimpses) into alternating character viewpoints, steadily building the pace and level of tension to a fever pitch.
Ghost Story is a well-plotted mystery, the red herrings eminently plausible. And although I did guess the worst evil-doer reasonably early on (like I suspect was intended), Ferla had me second guessing myself right until the final reveal.
It is this theme of not having anyone that you can trust, feeling isolated/alienated within a crowd, at the mercy of something larger than ourselves, that Ferla deftly explores within Ghost Girls. Difficult subject matter is tackled frankly, never voyeuristically. The abuse some in this story are subjected to is confronting and their absence of hope haunting.
Succinctly put by Angela Savage, ‘Ghost Girls grips you by the throat from the opening scene and doesn’t let go.’
Having traveled in China and spent time in an Asian Studies Centre at one of Australia’s major universities, I have observed the far reaching influence familial expectation/ obligation can have on visiting foreign students. The dangers that lurk when such conditions prevail are only enhanced and perpetuated by broader society’s lack of understanding (or ‘head in the sand’ mentality).
I commend Ferla for bringing this topic to a broader audience in this compelling fictional format. Highly recommended.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
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Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Drama
Author Information: Cath Ferla is a multiplatform writer with a background in screenwriting and script editing, print and online journalism, educational publishing and long and short form fiction. She is also a Secondary Schoolqualified teacher, with teaching experience and qualifications in the area of EAL (English as an Acquired Language). She has also lived in Beijing, China and studied Mandarin Chinese.
* My receiving a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.