Stirring up secrets can be deadly … especially if they’re yours…
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…
I am so thrilled to be taking my turn today on the blog tour for Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
I am struggling to gather adequate words to express my thoughts about this book, mainly because it has raised such a tumult of thoughts and emotions in me that it is almost impossible to sort them into a coherent thread. I haven’t read anything quite like it.
This has been billed as Louise Beech’s first psychological thriller, and it is, but that description doesn’t really do justice to the complexity of ideas and themes running through the novel. The psychological thriller genre has become saturated over the past few years and some of us have become a little jaded with it, given the uneven quality of writing that has appeared. However, this is a book that rises to the top of the heap, as the cream always does, going beyond the mere shock twist trope that has become the almost tired signature of the genre, to offer such a labyrinth of concepts and issues that I am still mentally mining them for my ultimate conclusions, which may take a while. I think it may even need a second, third or fourth reading to fully wring the nuances from it. However, the review is due today, so I’ll do the best I can with my initial thoughts!
The book follows Stella, a woman working as a presenter on a late night radio show, who has become consumed by the mystery of the recent murder of a local woman not far from where she works. Stella carries her own set of hang ups, resulting from her abandonment by her mother years before, a mother who has recently returned and stirred up a hornet’s nest of emotions that need to be addressed. In addition, she has an intense relationship to contend with, and a mystery caller who is suggesting he knows the killer – but why is he calling Stella?
The book is written from dual viewpoints, those of Stella and her mother, Elizabeth, and it jumps through different timelines, present and in to the past when Elizabeth left Stella as a child. This works really well, as the past gradually informs the present, and we are shown the motives of both parties in their current and former behaviour, all of which begins slowly to shed light on the current mystery.
The book is intricately plotted and had me making wild guesses as to who was responsible for what, which changed rapidly from chapter to chapter as more information was revealed, the layers of action and motive gradually peeling back like the slowly opening petals of a rose, to reveal the perfectly formed pistil at the centre which holds the essence of the flower. By the end, I had tied myself in knots trying to guess what was at the heart of the story, but I hadn’t got close to the truth of it, when it was finally revealed.
The basic mystery of the plot is not the essence of the story, though, it is simply the skeleton on which Louise hangs the complicated musculature of the book, which is the relationship between Stella, her mother, her anonymous father and her partner, Tom. The dynamics of these relationships, and how the actions of one impact the feelings and behaviour of the others, is the meat of the book, and it is a rich and fascinating topic that Louise exploits fully to make the reader think. There are so many questions raised – nature versus nurture; the nature of the parent/child bond; at what point does an obsessive love become unhealthy; does there come point at which the actions of a person you love become unforgivable, and so many more. I am sure, if I go back to the book again, I will find more and more questions to ponder. This is not a book to be read once and discarded as having given all it can, this is a book that demands thought and attention and detailed consideration of its issues. It is a book that may well leave you with more questions than answers.
Louise’s writing is tight and emotive. The world she creates in this book is the dark, lonely hour of the night when people are pondering the murkiest parts of their souls and coming to unhappy conclusions. The deserted radio station in the quiet hours is intensely claustrophobic, and provides the perfect backdrop for the bleak questions raised by the plot. I found the book deeply unsettling and strained, nerves jangling in anticipation of the alarming facts of the murder about to be revealed. I found it almost impossible to drag myself away from the page and break the tension. The book sucked me into its vortex and held me in a pincer grip, desperate to get to the truth. Not a word is wasted, the twanging tension almost unbearable in its relentlessness as Louise pulls the reader through the story without a moment’s respite. It is a startling accomplishment and left me breathless and disorientated at the end.
This book is something quite special, an achievement that would, in a live arena, be worthy of a standing ovation. My most rewarding read of the year so far.
Call Me Star Girl is out now in ebook and will be published in paperback on 18 April and you can get a copy here.
To follow the rest of the tour for the book, make sure you check out the blogs listed below:
About the Author
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.
Connect with Louise:
Facebook: Louise Beech