Thrillers tend to be most effective when readers get the chance to get inside the criminal’s mind. The opportunity to see the criminal rationalize his behavior humanizes them and lessens the starkness of the crime, whatever it may be. In The Good Girl, readers get this opportunity almost from the beginning, as the story unfolds through Colin’s eyes. One sees his hesitancy and agony at what he has to do and recognizes that this is not a cold-blooded person. How he balances his criminal actions with his guilt is one of the more appealing aspects of the story.
Because every such story needs a point and counterpoint, The Good Girl’s counterpoint to Colin’s story comes via Eve. Eve is the distraught mother who spends much of the time wishing she could have done things differently. Through Eve’s memories of Mia’s childhood, readers begin to fill in the puzzle pieces to Mia’s frame of mind at the time of her kidnapping, the reasons for her distance from her family, and how she came to be the adult she is. While this may not seem necessary at first, it becomes very important as one tries to piece together Mia’s missing memories.
The characters, their thoughts, and their reactions are essential to any good character-driven story. Thankfully, The Good Girl’s characters live up to the task. None of them are flashy, mentally disturbed, or overly memorable. Yet, their normalcy is what gives the story its potency. It is all too easy for readers to envision themselves as one or another of the characters, to step into their shoes and feel their emotions. Their empathetic natures blur the lines between good and bad, right and wrong, so that readers are left to weed through the gray areas and discern their own answers.
The story unfolds in fits and starts, bouncing from pre-, post-, and mid-abduction as well as from different characters’ points of view. Readers know who and the how of the abduction as well as its aftermath. What remains a mystery are the reasons why. All three main characters struggle with this remaining question, and it is not until the very end when the final piece slides into place with an almost audible click. It is a deft sleight of hand with which Ms. Kupica is able to lure readers into a false sense of security until she is ready to reveal her cards. It is also the moment at which the story becomes truly excellent.
Victim, accomplice, criminal – these words lose their meaning in The Good Girl. For Mia’s abduction is anything but ordinary, just as Colin’s life of crime is not a sign of a mentally disturbed man. Much of the novel explores Mia’s relationship with Colin, such as it is, but it also delves into the nature versus nurture debate. It makes one question the definition of victim and criminal, whether one can be both at the same time. It also makes one posit just where guilt resides. As such, The Good Girl is as much a psychological thriller as it is a mystery, and both aspects will keep one’s mind spinning.