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by Jennifer McMahon
Scout Press, October 2022
320 pages
ISBN: 166801906X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In MY DARLING GIRL, Jennifer McMahon weaves a mystery not so much of whodunit as what's really going on and where is the line between good and evil? To be clear, this novel is not a murder mystery, although three people die, and two of those die under mysterious circumstances. However, this is a horror novel, and McMahon sets it up incredibly well, beginning with a prologue detailing something undefined but unmistakably awful happening to Alison O'Connor as a child, then fast forwarding to Alison O'Connor as an adult with a loving husband two girls of her own, living what seems to be a happy, normal existence complete with Christmas decorating and lots of holiday joy. But when Alison gets a call telling her that her estranged mother is dying and wants to spend the last weeks of her life with Alison and her family, things take a dark turn. With her mother settled into Alison's pre-Christmas household, Alison must face her own childhood abuse while working against time to save her daughters from the evil that lurks beneath the sweet, grandmotherly exterior of her mother and maybe even within Alison herself.

Throughout the novel, the horror that unfolds is all the more terrible in contrast to the bright normality that McMahon continues to play off of. McMahon's characters are well drawn and believable, as are the complicated family relationships and interactions. She also creates believable settings that she uses well to enhance the atmosphere and the play of events. McMahon plays fair by giving lots of clues, so that the ending may not come as a complete surprise to the reader, but it's very unsettling, nevertheless, and there are plenty of other surprises to hold the reader's interest. The pacing is quick, making this an entertaining tale of good and evil, angels and demons, while exploring just how far a mother will go to save her children.

Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, January 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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