An exceptional and intricately woven new psychological thriller by the New York Times bestselling author of WHAT SHE KNEW.
To everyone who knows her now, Zoe Maisey - child genius, musical sensation - is perfect. Yet several years ago Zoe caused the death of three teenagers. She served her time, and now she's free.
Her story begins with her giving the performance of her life.
By midnight, her mother is dead.
THE PERFECT GIRL is an intricate exploration into the mind of a teenager burdened by brilliance, and a past that she cannot leave behind.
One of the brightest debuts I have read this year - a visceral, emotionally charged story. - Daily Mail
. . . heart-in-the-mouth excitement from the start of this electrifyingly good debut . . . an absolute firecracker of a thriller that convinces and captivates from the word go. A must read. - Sunday Mirror
A powerful page-turner and damning commentary on this age of the internet, where everyone has an opinion and a forum in which they can voice it. - Woman's Weekly, New Zealand
If you love Gone Girl and Before I Go to Sleep, you need to read this. - Closer
A gripping 'lost child' psychological thriller, which [rivals] Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. - Big Issue
What an amazing, gripping, beautifully written debut. Burnt Paper Sky kept me up late into the night (and scared the life out of me) - Liane Moriarty
Burnt Paper Sky is that rare thing in reading - a book which hooks you and keeps you focused on it until the end. - Shotsmag
This accomplished, intelligent debut should come with a warning - it's completely addictive. A nail-biting, sleep-depriving, brilliant read (Saskia Sarginson) - Saskia Sarginson
“Adults like to put a name on everything you feel, as if a name can neutralise it. They’re wrong, though. Some things settle under your skin and don’t ever go away, no matter what you call them” The Perfect Girl, also titled much more evocatively, Butterfly in the Dark, is the second novel by British author, Gilly Macmillan. At fourteen years of age, Zoe Guerin, a precociously talented Devon girl, had a promising career as a concert pianist ahead of her. Then she was found guilty of causing an accident that took three teenagers’ lives. At seventeen, now called Zoe Maisey, she has served her sentence in a Secure Unit, and her mother Maria has tried to give them both what Zoe recognises as a Second Chance at Life. But her attempt to restart her career in Bristol is dramatically aborted due to an incident that vividly brings back that tragic event and its aftermath. And mere hours later, Maria Maisey is dead. Macmillan employs three main narrators (Zoe, her aunt Tessa and her solicitor, Sam) to tell the story, adding another two in later chapters. The bulk of the story covers a period of less than twenty-four hours, but there are flashbacks that detail earlier occurrences. Zoe’s memories of her trial, her interactions with her keyworker at the Secure Unit, and a film script written by her step-brother, Lucas, serve to fill in some of the back story and establish Zoe’s state of mind. Both Sam’s and Tessa’s more mature perspectives establish the nature of the main characters and their interactions. Macmillan’s portrayal of a brilliant teenager and the effects of the accident on her life, and the lives of those close to her, is convincing. Her descriptive prose is evocative: ‘Lucas … just moved quietly around the different parts of the house and when he settled down anywhere, it reminded me of a dark shadow cast over a patch of white sand”. While the cover’s enticer “Nobody knows the truth but her” is quite misleading, this is a gripping tale. All the characters have secrets and several could have motives for murder. Macmillan skilfully builds her story, gradually feeding in clues and red herrings to produce a page-turner that will keep the reader guessing until the truth is revealed. Recommended!
Gilly Macmillan is the New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew and The Perfect Girl. She trained as an art historian and worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she's worked as a lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England.