Title: All These Perfect Strangers
Author: Aoife Clifford
Genre: Fiction (Mystery/Thriller)
Release Date: 1st March 2016
“Within six months of Pen Sheppard starting university, three of her new friends are dead. Only Pen knows the reason why. College life had seemed like a wonderland of sex, drugs and maybe even love. Full of perfect strangers, it felt like the ideal place for Pen to shed the confines of her small home town and reinvent herself. But the darkness of her past clings tight, and when the killings begin and friendships are betrayed, Pen’s secrets are revealed. The consequences are deadly.” (Simon & Schuster Australia)
Aiofe (pronounced Eefa, like this) Clifford’s debut novel was a complete page turner. Clifford has won a couple of crime writing awards for her shorter fiction, so I had pretty high hopes for her first foray into longer fiction – for the most part the book delivered.
It had all the makings of a good mystery – a young woman trying to escape a “dark past” which is only hinted at in fragments; a more recent past that is gradually pieced together as we switch back and forth between then and the present; and flitting through this, a cast of characters who can never be taken at face value. The switching between the past and the present kept things moving along at a decent pace and I didn’t once get bored – which is a good sign for a thriller.
In terms of character development, there was just the right amount; there was enough information about the characters to have an idea of who they are (and to raise suspicions about them), but it was nice not to get bogged down with trying to remember the minutiae of a character’s life. This made it hard for me to get too attached to the main character, Pen, but she’s meant to be a character who doesn’t want to get too close to people anyway, so that lack of attachment worked in the context of this novel. The focus was largely on the plot and piecing together the puzzle of events, which after last week’s post about this Italian crime thriller, is apparently a style that I’m growing to prefer.
I think it only really fell flat for me towards the end. All events in the novel seemed to be building towards something and I didn’t feel like it quite got there. There was one unexpected moment so I did have one moment of “oh that’s a twist”, but for me the end was kind of anticlimactic and wasn’t what I had hoped for such a great book.
Although I may not have loved the ending, I was sucked in early on and nearly missed my train stop one morning, which is how I can tell that I’m right into a book. All These Perfect Strangers was just about everything I could want in a good thriller, and has me excited for more from Clifford.