The Bottom Line: One of the year’s best thrillers, The Girl Next Door had me at “donuts and high heels.” This cheeky, stylish and sophisticated novel is a must for anyone who loves unreliable narrators.
Lisa Aurello’s The Girl Next Door begins with a murder, then rewinds a few weeks to eavesdrop on a conspiratorial café conversation between her likely killers. But in a clever move that expertly ratchets up tension, Aurello is careful not to reveal their identities. Like eyewitnesses that saw something terrifying in peripheral vision, readers will explore each succeeding chapter with a sleuth-like attention to detail, attempting to connect the dots in this most intriguing of cases.
Enter suspect number one, 25-year-old Jane Jensen, who suffers significant amnesia after a car accident. In many ways, The Girl Next Door details her struggle to reclaim her identity. Who is she, really? Why does she bear no resemblance to the heavyset teen of her youth?
But Jane isn’t the only one asking tough questions. When investigators learn that Jane stalked the murdered woman’s husband, they come looking for answers.
With Jane unsure about her guilt or innocence, it’s up to readers to figure it out before the shocking ending.
While a cynic might say Aurello’s title and protagonist with gradually eroding memory issues bears too close a resemblance to The Girl on the Train, that’s about as far as the connective tissue between the two novels gets. Paula Hawkins isn’t half as funny or as profane as Aurello, nor is she nearly obsessed with footwear. Highly recommended.