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Thursday, 13 October 2016

‘All These Perfect Strangers’ by Aoife Clifford

Published by Simon & Schuster,
25 August 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-4711-5362-4

I say this is about three deaths. I say deaths, but perhaps all of them were murders. It's a grey area. Murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So let's just call them deaths and say I was involved.'

Pen Sheppard is desperate to run from her past and a secret that has made her the young woman she now is. She leaves her small town home where she is reviled and ignored for university in the city, where she seems to fit in with other misfits. It is the perfect place for her to reinvent herself. No-one knows the real Pen and she wants to keep it that way.  But what Pen doesn't realise is that she cannot run far enough, and when friendships turn toxic, secrets are revealed.

And then the violence begins.

Students are being attacked, and all the victims are known to Pen.

In Pen Sheppard, Australian author Aoife Clifford has created a character difficult to like, but easy to empathise with. Pen is determined to succeed, and though she makes some terrible decisions – the reasons for some we don't learn until the end of the book – we root for her as a character. It's easy to get drawn into her world. Via a diary that Pen's psychiatrist has insisted she write, we are taken from the present to the past and back again and we watch the whole tale unfold.

But Pen is only revealing the parts of the diary she wants to, so as readers we don't know how much of the truth we’re being told. It is hard to know whether we should trust what Pen is telling us, whether she is just someone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if she is a truly manipulative character.

In this debut psychological thriller, which twists and turns and plays with notions of guilt and morality, Aoife Clifford has certainly created a fantastic unreliable narrator. I look forward to her next book.
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley

 Aoife Clifford was born in London of Irish parents, she grew up in New South Wales, studied Arts/Law at the Australian National University, Canberra. All These Perfect Strangers is Aoife Clifford's debut novel, but she has won the two major Australian crime writing prizes in short story form and has been shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger. In 2013 she was awarded an Australian Society of Author's mentorship for All These Perfect Strangers. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and three children.

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades.
Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing psychological suspense, drawing on her experiences in journalism.  The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads. Her second book, After She Fell, also published by Killer Reads, is out on April 28th.
In her spare time Mary-Jane likes to walk the dog and eat a lot. Good job she likes walking.

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