“You don’t have to believe in ghosts for the dead to haunt you. You don’t have to be a murderer to be guilty….
‘This is about three deaths. Actually more, if you go back far enough. I say deaths, but perhaps all of them were murders. It’s a grey area. Murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So let’s just call them deaths and say I was involved. This story could be told a hundred different ways.’
For Penelope Sheppard, university offers an escape from her troubled past. Running from a life weighed down with scandal and tragedy, Pen sees this as the ideal place to reinvent herself among perfect strangers. Life in her new halls of residence feels like a wonderland of sex, drugs, and maybe even love. But all too soon Pen realises you never can run far or fast enough. And when Pen’s secrets are revealed, the consequences are deadly….
Little by little, through Pen’s flawed narration and tantalising diary entries, secrets, truths and lies come to light, and a dangerous dilemma unfolds, twisting and turning until the very last page.”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford. All These Perfect Strangers was published by Simon & Schuster in paperback, audio and digital formats on 25th August 2016.
If you’ve been following my blog for some time and you have a very VERY good memory you may remember my husband’s brilliant Christmas gift to me several years ago. All These Perfect Strangers was one of the books Ryan chose and I’ve been keen to make a start on it.
Penelope Sheppard has secured a bursary at Scullin College against the odds. Several years earlier she was present when a police officer was shot and killed. The small town she lives in hates her and has never forgiven the crime, particularly the family of the accused – Pen’s best friend Tracey. But Scullin is a fresh start with new people. Pen can blend in and only reveal what she chooses to her new friends. But the past has a habit of catching up with you and before long, someone else is aware of what happened to Pen all those years ago…
I never used to be a fan of the unreliable narrator but that’s changed over the years and oh my gosh, All These Perfect Strangers does it so well. From the start, you can’t be sure what Pen is telling you is true or a twisted version of the truth. Parts of the story are told via diary entries which Pen is instructed to keep by her psychiatrist, Frank. But Pen wants to keep the truth close to her chest so ‘edits’ events accordingly in their reading. Due to the structure of the book I was never sure if I was reading fact or Pen’s fiction which really helped add to the suspense.
All These Perfect Strangers is a tale of secrets and lies, of guilt and blame. It’s structure was a little confusing at times as there are three distinct periods of time covered by the author and I found myself unsure which time period I was in . As I began each chapter, I was on the lookout for a character or a location to confirm where in Pen’s history I was, which I found a little distracting. The flashbacks to the shooting and preceding events are clear but the other two time slots; Pen at university and Pen at home following the events at Scullin, weren’t as obvious.
Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. All These Perfect Strangers is a compelling book which I really enjoyed. A twisty tale chock full of secrets, lies and deceit and a very well-written unreliable narrator. The more I got to know Pen, the more I liked her. By the end of the book, I was 100% on her side. I loved the Australian setting, I really enjoyed that the book was set in the late 80s. All in all, a great debut which I recommend.
All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster on 25th August 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |
Aoife Clifford is the author of the novel All These Perfect Strangers, published in Australia and the United Kingdom by Simon & Schuster and by Penguin Random House in the United States.
Born in London of Irish parents, she grew up in New South Wales, studied Arts/Law at the Australian National University, Canberra and now lives in Melbourne.
Aoife has won two premier short story prizes for crime fiction in Australia – the Scarlet Stiletto (2007) and the S.D. Harvey Ned Kelly Award in 2012, among other prizes. She has also been short listed for the UK Crime Association’s Debut Dagger. In 2014 she was awarded an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her novel, All These Perfect Strangers.