The sequel to Girl: Broken, Girl: Inside continues the story of Daisy, a young woman who grew up in and was abused by a cult but managed to escape. Author S Williams aims to explore how people can be affected and destabilised by the extreme practices of certain cults with a crime story that is fast, brutal and intense. It’s a short novel that tears its way across the north of England taking in Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and more.
We pick things up with Jay, a young, lesbian police officer returning to duty after recovering from brutal injuries suffered in the first book. She still walks with a cane and with the cult victim Daisy still out there somewhere, Jay is itching to find her. In fact, she’s obsessed with Daisy and it’s very much a case of unfinished business when it comes to The Fishermen. Surviving members of the cult Daisy grew up in are now hunting her down. They’re out there, but Jay doesn’t know where or how many.
Jay is assisted by Joseph, a middle-aged man who has expertise with technology and psychological disorders. He’s not a cop, just an advisor – it’s a strange set-up and Jay is working outside the force. This is because her CO thinks The Fishermen may have informants in the police. A high-ranking officer is murdered in the early pages of the novel, and another detective who is trying to help Jay and Joseph is killed soon after that. Then a teacher is murdered who had links to The Fishermen and it becomes clear to Jay and Joseph that someone else might be either searching for Daisy, hunting down former Fishermen, or both
They are in a race against time, and they’re up against a deadly foe called Slane, who was at the heart of the cult. She is hellbent on finding Daisy and is surveilling what Jay and Joseph do, just in case they might lead her to the young woman. Gradually, we begin to learn why Slane wants to find her – Daisy was the subject of experiments aiming to create children with split personalities. An angel and a devil in one shell. Daisy is an enigma to both Jay and Slane, but for slightly different reasons. Jay feels the urge to protect her after their encounters in the earlier book, Slane has other plans for her which aren’t quite as honourable.
Through flashbacks at various points in the story, we find out more about the horrors Daisy was subjected to while held at Damson Cottage and about how she escaped. And we find out about other forces at work – there are two other characters with an interest in her but to find out more about them you’ll need to read the book.
Girl: Inside is an entertaining read. The action is fast-paced with plenty of surprises and red herrings. It’s also a troubling read with plenty of violence and death. Both Jay and Slane are larger than life characters, more graphic novel than psychological thriller in how they are styled but what they lack in believability they make up for in punchiness and unpredictability. Undoubtedly the author has carefully plotted and structured the novel, and uses backstory throughout so that contemporary events gradually make sense. However, towards the climax the need to switch back to the past dampens the momentum of the story and the final confrontation doesn’t quite reach the heights it could. Plus, what you find out takes away from the suspense and prevailing sense of peril just before the two rival forces meet head-on.
This isn’t a novel for depth, nuance or atmosphere, but Girl: Inside is interesting and hard-hitting where it wants to be and is exciting throughout. It’s ideal for the commute or if you want a quick and undemanding diversion for an afternoon or two. It’s worth reading Girl: Broken first. It might give you more investment in the characters.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars