Source: Review copy
Publication: 18 Feb 2019 in e-book. 18 April 2019 in paperback from Orenda Books
Tonight is the night for secrets…A taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller, reminiscent of Play Misty for Me … from the critically acclaimed author of Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost…
Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught. Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers. Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof. Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…With echoes of the Play Misty for Me, Call Me Star Girl is a taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller that plays on our deepest fears, providing a stark reminder that stirring up dark secrets from the past can be deadly…
Wow! Louise Beech’s first foray into crime writing just blew me away. If, like me, you are a fan of Louise’s writing, you will know that her special gift is writing that captivates, entrances, and really makes you care about her characters. Her prose is rich and rewarding; she has the ability to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. This is writing that somehow manages to shine a light on the beauty of the everyday and her emotional resonance is second to none.
In Call Me Star Girl, she has used her gifts to deliver a fully-fledged dark and twisted psychological thriller that has all the hallmarks of her writing but reinforced with a steel core. This is Louise Beech on steroids and boy, is she motoring at high speed.
Told in two timelines, then and now, and predominantly in two first person voices – those of Stella McKeever and her mother, Elizabeth, with a sparing but critical third person outside perspective provided by taxi driver, Bob Fracklehurst.
Bob is a classic Beech character, full of warmth, heart and goodness. A man who wants to do the right thing and always sees the good in people. A character who does not seem integral to this dark murder story, but whose presence is nonetheless crucial to the book.
Stella is our titular protagonist. A presenter at her local radio station where she conducts a three hour late night show, before the real night hawks come on air. Stella’s mum left her when Stella was only twelve. Just sent her to a neighbour with a note and disappeared, leaving behind only a bottle of perfume that would remind Stella of her for years to come.
Stella never knew her father and all her life she has wanted to know who he was. Now she is in an all-consuming relationship with Tom, her boyfriend. Theirs is a love affair of passion and intensity. Unpredictable, risky, it’s an all or nothing relationship where Stella’s biggest fear is that Tom will wake up one day and find her boring. So she tries to make sure that will never happen.
Stella’s mum, Elizabeth, is slowly finding a way to come back into her daughter’s life. Though she feels guilty about leaving her only child in the way she did, the sad fact is that she made a choice and if she had that choice to make again, there’s no doubting what she would do. In some ways mother and daughter are not dissimilar.
When pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago, the town was shaken. No-one has been caught and women are nervously looking over their shoulders as they walk home at night, making sure they keep to the well-lit areas as they plan their routes.
Stella too is wary, she thinks she has caught sight of someone hovering around outside the radio station on more than one evening and now she’s receiving calls to the station from a man who says he knows who killed Victoria.
But this is Stella’s last ever show and she’s not going to go quietly. Alone in the radio station, she plays out her last three hours in a show that will have consequences for everyone listening.
Tightly written, with a brilliantly executed story arc, Call Me Star Girl is an immersive dark, aberrant and sometimes very painful psychological drama that is full of memories, secrets, and long felt desires.
Verdict: Honestly, it’s hard to articulate what a powerful book this is, but Call Me Star Girl is a killer read in anyone’s book. It’s destined to be a must read of 2019 in any crime list.
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Reader’s Choice in 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for the Not the Booker Prize. Her third book, Maria in the Moon was widely reviewed and critically acclaimed. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice.
Louise is currently writing her next book. She lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull and loves her job as Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.
Follow Louise on Twitter @LouiseWriter