Book Review: Ghost Girls by Cath Ferla
Sophie is a teacher at an English language school for Asian students in Sydney. When one of her students commits suicide, she is drawn into investigating the tragedy. She quickly unearths a cover-up in the school involving students swapping identities. Fraud, however, is just the tip of the iceberg and many more illegal activities are being carried out by someone close to the school. Meaning Sophie’s own life is in danger should she continue to poke her nose around somewhere she shouldn’t.
Ghost Girls is what people usually refer to as a ‘gritty crime thriller’ and for the most I enjoyed it.
Cath Ferla’s research and background knowledge of the Asian cultures mentioned is evident.
One of the things I didn’t like about Ghost Girls was that it is depressing as hell. Most of the crimes are not pleasant; kidnapping, forcing women into becoming sex workers, pornography, S&M clubs (where women prostitute themselves out to take punches etc instead of sex), making and viewing of snuff films. I don’t read this type of book often for a reason. I like living in my little bubble…
The racism mentioned in the book also makes you feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately the book shows how most of us still judge people and show bias due to their race.
Sophie’s past and the flashbacks etc is not overly confusing, but occasionally I did find it difficult to keep up with who-was-who amongst the characters. There are quite a lot of supporting ones, and I think only at the very end of the book does their existence make sense at all. And although the ending did pull all the characters together somewhat, I unfortunately found the opening crime was conveniently forgotten.
There was fabulous tension after the reveal of what one of the criminals does for a (cover, I suppose) job, which quickly suggests to the reader Sophie might be closer to the murderer than she thinks, and therefore, closer to danger than we think.
The backstory of Sophie’s mum and dad was a little ho-hum. I did quite like the plot of one of the victim’s sister, and would have quite happily read more of her point of view.
I also liked the touch of romance Sophie has with her housemate. (Even though Sophie’s sexuality is somewhat confusing given the flashbacks.)
But the best part of Ghost Girls is the scenes and passages featuring richly described Asian dishes. Yes, it seems awfully odd to describe a novel in this genre as a sensory delight, but it’s what makes it stand out in a crowd of the usual gritty crime thrillers, I believe.
In fact, if I had to describe Ghost Girls in a few words, I’d say ‘uncomfortable food porn’.
4 out of 5.