Mary Kubica’s debut novel The Good Girl, which I read last year, was a bestseller and demonstrated Kubica’s talent as a psychological thriller writer. Pretty Baby is Kubica’s second turn at the psychological thriller genre and what emerges is a polished domestic suspense novel.
When a teenage girl struggling with an infant captures the attention of the charitable Heidi Wood, it sets in motion a dramatic chain of events. Heidi Wood is a kind hearted person, willing to help anyone in any way she can. Heidi assumes the teenage girl is homeless as she is carrying round a battered suitcase and wears the same soiled clothes. Heidi reaches out to the stranger, by offering charity in the form of her jacket for warmth, closely followed by a meal to fill the hungry girl’s empty stomach and soon after, her own home for shelter. The girl, whom reveals her name to Heidi as Willow Greer, reluctantly accepts Heidi’s help when it appears the young child she is caring for, Ruby, is running a fever. At Heidi’s home, Heidi’s husband Chris and twelve year old daughter Zoe are opposed to Willow staying at the home, not knowing if this strange girl has a violent background or a tendency to steal. While Zoe withdraws further from her mother and Chris devotes more time to his work, he also hires a private detective to investigate who Willow Greer really is. As time goes on Heidi becomes more attached to infant Ruby as Willow drip feeds Heidi painful details from her past, which is littered with loss and abuse. As Pretty Baby moves to a dramatic and pulsating ending, the characters begin to behave in unexpected and unnerving ways.
I have to say that I enjoyed Pretty Baby much more than its predecessor, The Good Girl. Despite that fact that it contains some hard to handle themes such as child abuse and grief, this was a novel that I found hard pressed to put down at night. Much of the appeal of this novel for me came from the skilful way in which Kubica structures her narrative. Alternating and dividing her viewpoints between three main characters, Heidi, her husband Chris and teen runaway Willow, gives the reader an insight into the individualised reactions to the unfolding events in the story. Pretty Baby is one of those novels where it is difficult to discuss the finer points of the book for fear of spoiling the reading experience. However, what I will say is be prepared for all your ideas you have formed about the characters to be turned on their head by the close of the novel. The final third of Pretty Baby is ramped up to full throttle by Kubica. The ending had me stunned and stewing over the final events long after closing the back cover.
Pretty Baby is an emotionally charged book that lingers after the last page is read. I would recommend this novel to readers who appreciate intricately designed psychological suspense novels.