ARC review: Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy

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A secret’s not a secret if you tell someone, and guess what? No one knows what I’m doing.

Nothing bad ever happens in the picturesque seaside town of Cape Bonita. That is, at least, until one pretty, popular girl after another is found dead. Murdered.  Penelope Malone is friends with all of the murdered girls and, therefore, a prime suspect.  But Penelope has her own theories.  Maybe it’s her friend who’s been outspoken about how much she hated those girls. Maybe it’s the quiet, brooding bad boy with the dark past.  Who can Penelope trust?

This book was so different than Saving It, the last Monica Murphy book that I read!  I have a complicated relationship with thrillers but I did enjoy this one. I don’t really want to get into the details of the plot because I’ll probably accidentally give something away.  I did figure out (more or less) who the killer was by the 50% mark, but I was still interested in reading to find out how it would fit into the story and how everything would be resolved.

I want to talk about the characters for a minute, though.  Penelope and her friends belong to an elite group called the Larks, made up of the five smartest, prettiest, wealthiest girls in the junior and senior classes.  The girls are mean.  Imagine Regina George crossed with A from Pretty Little Liars on their worst, moodiest, hangriest day.  That’s a starting point for how cruel these girls can be.  They know that they’re the best of the best, and if they don’t want to acknowledge anybody else’s presence, they just won’t.  If they don’t want to talk to somebody, they just keep walking. They judge everybody, within and outside their circle. Nobody is safe from their comments or their wrath and they think nothing of it.

All of that begins to change with Penelope when her friends start dying off.  Penelope realizes that she doesn’t really want to act that way, although she still pulls her snooty card on more than one occasion.  She’s not a particularly likable heroine, which is definitely something that I had to adjust to, but I appreciated that she seemed to be trying.

Penelope’s love interest is also one of her prime suspects, the elusive Cass Vincenti.  Nobody knows much of anything about Cass, aside from his juicy backstory, but once her friends start dying, he’s eager to talk to Penelope.  She finds herself inexplicably attracted to him while also constantly telling herself that she shouldn’t be. I feel a bit creepy for thinking that I’d probably also fall for Cass, given that I’m probably at least ten years older than him.  What can I say? I have a thing for misunderstood lone wolves.

Overall, I enjoyed the story but found a lot of Penelope’s actions to be more irritating than anything else.  I think that the killer is fairly obvious, but if you’re okay with just going along for the ride, it’s an entertaining story.

Final rating: 3.5, rounded up to ★★★★☆

I received a free advance copy of Pretty Dead Girls from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.