‘Before they found the girl in the alley, I found a book in the foyer at work.
The girl would be found dead, her neck bloody, her body covered with a red coat, and with no obvious clues as to who had left her that way. The book was brand new, unopened, wrapped in brown paper and had a single clue as to who had left it there.
A note inside the first page:
“Stella this will tell you everything”‘
[ About the Book ]
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 twelve 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…
[ My Review ]
Call Me Star Girl is the latest release from Louise Beech. Just published with Orenda Books, it is a side step for the author, it being her first foray into the psychological genre. Described as ‘a taut, emotive, chilling and all-consuming psychological thriller, reminiscent of Play Misty for Me’ there is a throw-back vibe to the plot and the style. Play Misty for Me was also Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut so the connection of firsts is strong!
Stella McKeever has had a very difficult life. Her mother abandoned her to the care of a neighbour when she was twelve and the impact of this has remained with Stella all her life. Stella has this fear of being boring. She never felt she was enough for her mother and as she moved through her adult years, she always strove to be exciting, to be challenging but never ever boring.
After leaving school, Stella gets an apprenticeship in a local community radio station, working the late shift. Having been there for a number of years, Stella knows her listeners and they know her. But it’s just not enough for Stella. Fearing that she may become complacent and that her ratings will drop, fearing that her audience will get bored with her, Stella decides that tonight will be her final show. Stella will go out on a bang, with a show that everyone will be talking about and one that will make her star shine bright.
The story jumps back and forth between the past and present as we get an insight into Stella’s story. Her boyfriend Tom and her mother Elizabeth feature very strongly in the narrative, characters I had such mixed feelings toward.
With the body of pregnant Victoria Valbon discovered, following a brutal attack, three weeks previously, in the vicinity of the station, everyone is on edge. Is there a killer roaming free? Will they strike again? Why this pregnant young woman? Lots of questions but very few leads, leaving the local police frustrated. But Stella knows something. Stella has a stranger ringing the station nightly and dropping subtle hints that he knows more about Victoria Valbon. He has a very mysterious air about him but Stella almost encourages him. She courts menace, she courts the unexpected and maintains contact with this individual off-air, as her curiosity is piqued.
Call Me Star Girl is a troubling read, one that disturbed me from the beginning. Louise Beech captures something unique, something that I have great difficulty putting a name to if I’m truly honest. Louise Beech grasps the noir vibe and totally makes it her own, with this unnerving and darkly atmospheric novel. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. It was not what I expected at all BUT…the rest of the book had me on the edge of my seat and I actually had to put it down late one night as I was totally creeped out!!
Call Me Star Girl is an unconventional thriller evoking a strong sense of the noir, with it’s elusive feel and volatile characters. This a novel of many layers, with an intense undercurrent of danger and a heightened enigmatic quality to the writing. Louise Beech is one talented writer and I have no doubt we will be seeing her return to the thriller in the near future….
[ Bio ]
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.
Twitter ~ @LouiseWriter
Website ~ https://louisebeech.co.uk/