All These Perfect Strangers

Author: Aoife Clifford

Published By: Alibi

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                I love NetGalley – it offers me opportunities to review books by authors I may never have heard of before, exposing me to works that I may never have checked out on my own.  That’s what this site is all about, after all. readers know that we just love independent artists and can’t wait to check out their works.  That’s why I decided to download a copy of All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford.

                Penelope Sheppard has a way of attracting trouble.  Years ago, she got into trouble with her best friend Tracey – trouble that ended in the loss of life and a definite loss of innocence.  Now, we come across Pen six months after arriving at a university campus, recipient of its first scholarship.  We meet her just as she is arriving at the door of her therapist and come to the realization that something horrible has happened to her yet again.

                Through a series of flashbacks provided by Pen as she writes in a journal, an act suggested by her therapist as a means of sorting out her feelings, we learn that Pen had been hoping to create a new identity for herself after leaving her home town – a home town small enough that everyone knows of her involvement in the death of a police officer.  But she can’t seem to escape drama, even here.  The Dean of the university is a smarmy, sleazy sort who makes it very clear that he expects great things from Pen, just not what kind of great things he wants.  She makes friends surprisingly quickly here, though she still seems to feel quite alone.

                Especially when one of those friends threatens to talk to others about Pen’s troubled past.  But when that person ends up dead after a night of partying, could Pen become their prime suspect?  And when another acquaintance who mentions observations regarding Pen and this dead frenemy ends up murdered, Pen finds herself squarely in the midst of a mystery where all clues point to one person in common - her.

                As we read All These Perfect Strangers, we realize that Pen is a rather flawed individual.  We want to like her and root for her, but as time passes, we wonder about Pen.  We learn she is not exactly the nicest person in the world, but is she simply a product of her environment…of the company that she keeps?  As we observe the lies she tells her therapist, we start to wonder just how much of what she is telling us (through her journal) is the truth.  Is she skewing the truth to suit her own needs or can she just not accept blame for anything that has happened?

                I love the fact that this is told in the first person point of view, flashing backwards and forwards.  It helps to keep the reader on edge, wondering what is truth, what is fabrication.  We know something dramatic and life-changing happened in her past, but we are not quite certain of her full involvement in it all.  And what has happened to her best friend and “partner in crime?” 

                I figured out a great deal pretty early on, but there was quite an exciting twist at the end and a few shocking surprises throughout.  Aoife Clifford does a great job of reeling readers in and keeping them hooked until the startling big reveal.  The fact that the reveal is so startling, despite the clues leading into it is testimony to a great mystery writer.  All These Perfect Strangers was definitely one of those thrillers that is hard to put down.  I would definitely read more from Aoife Clifford in the future.


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