The Girl Remains by Katherine Firkin, Review: Authentic crime

The Girl Remains, Katherine Firkin’s second crime novel, is wrapped in a web of lies and deceit, and likely one of the more authentic depictions of cold-case investigation in recent fiction. Read my full review.

The Girl Remains Review - Author Katherine Firkin

The Girl Remains Synopsis

A chilling police thriller set in a small coastal town on the Mornington Peninsula, where the discovery of human bones on an isolated beach has reawakened a twenty-year-old cold case… 

On the evening of September 22, 1998, three teenage girls venture out for a night of mischief in the coastal town of Blairgowrie. But only two return . . . 

For over twenty years the disappearance of fifteen-year-old Cecilia May remains a baffling cold case – until human bones are discovered on an isolated beach. 

Now it’s up to Detective Emmett Corban and his team to dig up decades of trauma, and find the missing piece of an investigation that’s as complex as it is tragic.

Does the answer lie with the only suspect, a registered sex offender who confessed, then immediately provided a rock-solid alibi? Or with the two teen survivors – neither of whom can keep their story straight?

But the police aren’t the only ones hunting for the truth: someone else has arrived in the seaside town. And she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to find her own version of justice…

Praise for Katherine’s first novel Sticks and Stones:

‘A strong debut that marks Firkin out as a writer to watch out for.’ – Canberra Weekly 
A gritty police procedural . . . hopefully this is the start of a great new series.’- New Idea
‘This twisted and thrilling novel is a must-read for any fan of true crime.’ – Stellar Magazine

(Penguin AU, May 2021)

Genre: Crime-Detective, Mystery, Thriller

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The Girl Remains Review

Past experience tells me experienced journalists can make fantastic crime novelists (Chris Hammer, Holly Watt etc). And, I anticipated Katherine Firkin’s no-nonsense, precise TV reporting style would translate well into fictional police procedurals. I was right.

The complexity of the web of lies and deceit at the heart of this cold case is particularly noteworthy, as are the feelings of mistrust and suspense fostered by its windswept, sleepy coastal setting. In The Girl Remains, Blairgowrie is a location at the mercy of the elements and its history, with rocky terrain, perilous cliffs and the quintessential, and sometimes even more dangerous, small-town attitudes and mindset.

Less effective though was Firkin’s characterisation. And, while her conscientious depiction of the real-world delays and vast number of people involved in such an investigation was admirable, it perhaps exacerbated this weakness at times. Lacking a depth and continuity of investment in any particular character, it was the author’s judicious unwrapping of the puzzle and toying with her audience’s moral compass and inner sleuth that maintained my engagement.

Katherine Firkin’s The Girl Remains features a cold-case worth sinking your teeth into, and is, I suspect one of the more authentic depictions of real-world policing on the fiction shelves. Recommended for fans of TV police procedurals.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 3.5 / 5 – Overall 3.75

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“Australian crime fiction has just found an exciting new voice.”  – Marie Claire

The Girl Remains is an earnestly crafted police procedural. Firkin isn’t trying to put some magical spin on the conventional elements of the detective genre, which makes it catnip for armchair sleuths like myself. … The purity of its unfurling, even as it criss-crosses between its expansive cast, makes it a pleasure to read.” – Simon McDonald

“I very much liked that Firkin confronts readers with our own expectations and prejudices when we learn of (a suspect’s) past, and then again when it’s further clarified.”  –

About the Author, Katherine Firkin

Katherine Firkin is a Melbourne journalist, currently with CBS New York. She has over a decade of experience and has worked across every medium – print, online, television and radio. 

Katherine began her career at the Herald Sun newspaper (News Corp), where she specialised in sports reporting (winning an AFL Media award in 2008), before moving to breaking news, including crime and court reporting. During this time, she covered some of Victoria’s most notorious criminal affairs, including the death and funeral of underworld figure Carl Williams. She has also worked for Seven West Media (7 News, 7 Sport), 3AW Radio, the Nine Network’s Today show, and Network Ten, and has been a regular international correspondent for multiple global outlets. 

Katherine has been writing fiction from a young age, and she studied literature and journalism at university. Her novels are inspired by the many criminal trials she has covered. Check out her website or connect with her on Twitter / Instagram.

This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2021 and the 2021 Women Writers Challenge.

* My receipt of a review copy from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.