The Girl on Mill Street, Peter Gilboy: Book Review

the girl on mill street peter gilboy book reviewThomas & Mercer / Peter Gilboy
The Girl on Mill Street Book Cover The Girl on Mill Street
Peter Gilboy
Mystery, Thriller
Thomas & Mercer
April 18, 2017
e-book
210

Nineteen-year-old Annie Taylor has a dark story to tell, one of sex, betrayal, and homicide: her family’s story.

Ten years ago, her beautiful and well-loved mother disappeared. Her father, a famous sex therapist and loving husband, was charged with the murder.

But Annie stubbornly believes in her father’s innocence. She follows in his footsteps and studies psychology, desperate to understand the tragic event that has shaped her life and to exonerate the man she believes was wrongly convicted.

Annie, who will fight for the truth no matter what it reveals, starts discovering more sinister details about her family’s history. Why did her peace-loving mother have a police record? Who could explain her father’s fear of mirrors? What about the other woman in her father’s past, who is also missing? And what about her father’s warning to others of a darkness that is hidden inside each of us?

 

As I was working my way through catching up on a few books that I never made it to in TBRs from earlier this year, I ended up picking up a recently released mystery thriller by Peter Gilboy in the hope of a quick and entertaining read. Originally titled Annie’s Story, The Girl on Mill Street was definitely a quick read, but it was not nearly as enjoyable as I thought it would be.

Back in April, I received a copy of The Girl on Mill Street in a Goodreads giveaway. Seeing that it had rather favorable reviews and reminded me of Katee Robert‘s The Devil’s Daughter in some respects, I went in with high expectations. I found myself severely disappointed, however, as, two days and 200 pages later, next to nothing stood out about The Girl on Mill Street.

This review contains spoilers and quotes from the book.

From the very first page, I found it difficult to enjoy the format of the novel. Told from Annie’s perspective, the novel is written in the first person in the form of a diary of sorts. Although Gilboy uses the word diary to describe Annie’s story, I found that diary was a rather loose term, as it is rather jumbled. That’s not to say that all diaries are structured, but many recount day to day events on a semi-regular basis at the very least. However, there is no real structure to Annie’s story that follows the pace that a diary might.

There are no entries, for one. Annie constantly goes back and forth between the past and present – so much so, in fact, that I found it very difficult follow the timeline of events as the novel progressed. While I understand that a diary can be used as a form of therapy, the structure and format of The Girl on Mill Street, as a whole, was a complicated and complex mess that left the reader grasping for some semblance of time.

For example, although there are occasional breaks in a chapter to denote differences in time, there is a section of the book where a trial is being held; the reader is unsure of whether or not Annie is writing about her day to day events, or writing about the events of the trial in hindsight. Although it can be inferred that Annie is recounting events at a later date from the opening paragraph of The Girl on Mill Street, the chapters that take place during the trial are written in the present tense, with word-for-word transcriptions taken from the courtroom.

Confusing grammar and format aside, Annie was not the most likable character. I found her to be rather judgmental and close-minded. There are a few portions of the book where sex and BDSM are mentioned where Annie can’t even begin to fathom people enjoying anything other than plain, vanilla sex, even though she has never really been in a relationship, let alone had sex. It gets even worse when she imagines the ways that her parents might have sex and then judges them for the possibility of using handcuffs in the bedroom.

It’s a strange fetish, and I don’t get it. I think that people who enjoy pain, on any level, must have a major personality disorder, which neither Mom nor Dad had.

-excerpt from Peter Gilboy’s The Girl on Mill Street

If that wasn’t bad enough, there is this idea that all men are inherently bad. Oh! and to top that all off, Annie’s father is a well-known psychotherapist because he wrote a book about sex that is brought up almost constantly, which claims that having two orgasms a day can fix most problems. Who knew that having two orgasms a day could fix all of your problems?

That’s why I say we need Twice-a-Day therapy – two orgasms each day, to obliterate, at least for a time, our daily selves, all that we have thought we are, and to let us remember our very cores.

-excerpt from Peter Gilboy’s The Girl on Mill Street

I found myself increasingly annoyed with Annie’s commentary, as she constantly assumes that she knows everything about her parents. I understand loving your family, but she constantly alludes to the fact that neither parent could do wrong. Regardless of how much you love or believe in someone, no one is perfect.

Pair Annie’s unwavering belief in her parents with the constant addition of Freud’s thoughts on human action and things go from bad to worse. I have no problem with Freud. I have read a few of his theories in the past, some of which have been fascinating, but there is a difference between casually mentioning Freud, and mentioning him on almost every single page.

Despite the fact that The Girl on Mill Street is a mystery novel, it is very different from your traditional mystery. It doesn’t keep you on edge. Instead, the majority of the novel is dedicated to Annie’s day to day life and interactions with her father, while her mother’s disappearance lingers in the background. The downside to this is the fact that you are given a single suspect, while the upside is that you don’t necessarily see the end coming. However, any element of surprise that the ending of The Girl on Mill Street presents is lost, due to the fact that a number of loose ends remain.

I can’t help but think that Gilboy’s latest novel would have been more interesting if it was formatted differently. If Annie’s story had been written from the perspective of an actual diary, with chapters reflecting the present day, as well as important events throughout her life, it would have been easier to follow and understand. Instead, Annie’s entire story comes off as rather juvenile in tone, which is only made worse by her assertion that she is a woman.

I’m nineteen now and no longer a girl. I’m a woman in every way that counts. It’s not just because of my age but my experiences, too. I don’t mean sexual experiences. I know things I didn’t know before. I know about violence and betrayal. And I know the darkest lie of all.

-excerpt from Peter Gilboy’s The Girl on Mill Street

In all, Gilboy’s latest novel fell flat for me, as it was not much of a thriller. Instead of feeling sensations of tension and suspense that normally accompany the genre, I found myself exasperated and annoyed with Annie more than anything else. Although a few parts of the novel were rather promising, including the sections dedicated to her father’s background and life on a commune, the mystery surrounding his past in this regard is never answered.

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Melissa Ratcliff
Reader, Writer & Translator. Cats, books and video games are my life.