The Girl in the Shadows – Katherine Debona

*I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review, as part of the author’s Books and the Bear blog tour.*

3. (1)A teenage girl is missing in Paris
A young woman is searching for her mother
A female PI on a mission

When police drop the case on missing Mathilde Benazet, renegade PI Veronique Cotillard steps in to prove that she can succeed where police inspector Guillaume Leveque and his team have failed…

Alice Weston’s father had always told her that her mother died in childbirth – but now Alice has proof she may be alive and living in Paris. Now her father is dead she has nothing to stay for, it’s time to uncover her family’s long-buried secrets…

As their lives intertwine and the city prepares to celebrate Bastille Day in the shadow of a gathering storm, both Veronique and Alice will face the ghosts of the past – and the monsters in the present.


This is not your average crime-mystery-thriller.  In fact, I would argue that it doesn’t really fit any of those categories neatly.

The purported crimes here are not what they first appear, but there are hidden crimes, old and new, that the reader slowly uncovers as the plot unfolds.  The mystery of the missing girl, Mathilde, is not so for the reader, who sees some chapters through her eyes as well as through the eyes of the other two main characters, Alice and Veronique.  The true mysteries here are what happened in these womens’ pasts to shape their presents, and whether they will survive to find some form of a future.

Although there is some violence, it is not the focus of the plot, nor is the action.  Instead we are taken on a measured exploration of how people and events mould us through our lives.  The three women we follow are all broken, metaphorically and physically, and the narrative is their journey to find, not really the people they are searching for, but themselves…a way of moving forward in their respectively stalled lives.

There is a big reveal towards the end of a twist which, if you follow the symbolism throughout, you may find foreshadowed; in a story that is full of fateful coincidences, cycles of repeating events, and the destructive fire of darker emotions mirrored in literal flames.

I found some of the coincidences hard to swallow initially, reading the book as a mystery, but once I recognised that the characters were actually in a stylised dance, spinning slowly through the Parisian setting, briefly crossing paths or touching hands, before springing apart again, then I was better able to appreciate the intricacy of the plotting and the clean beauty of the writing.

Leave your genre expectations in the shadows for this one!

Everywhere you went there was evidence, something to leave its mark.  A signature, the use of a credit card, even a fingerprint, but so far she hadn’t been able to find one single clue as to Mathilde’s whereabouts.  Her job was never easy but it also wasn’t supposed to be this hard.

– Katherine Debona, The Girl in the Shadows

You can find Katherine Debona and her writing at her website here, or contact her via Twitter.

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