The Girl in Times Square…
Lily’s life is turned upside down with the disappearance of her flat mate, incredible revelations about her family and a personal discovery, all of which will affect her forever. What if everything you believed about your life was a lie? Meet Lily Quinn. She is broke, struggling to finish college, pay her rent, find love. Adrift in bustling New York City, the most interesting things in Lily’s life happen to the people around her. But Lily loves her aimless life until her best friend and roommate Amy disappears. That’s when Spencer Patrick O’Malley, a cynical, past his prime NYPD detective with demons of his own, enters Lily’s world. And a sudden financial windfall which should bring Lily joy instead becomes an ominous portent of the dark forces gathering around her.
But fate isn’t finished with Lily. She finds herself fighting for her life as Spencer’s search for the missing Amy intensifies, leading Lily to question everything she knew about her friend and family. Startling revelations about the people she loves force her to confront truths that will leave her changed forever.
From a master storyteller comes a new heart-wrenching, magnificent and un-putdownable novel. This is the odyssey of two young women, Lily and Amy, roommates and friends on the verge of the rest of their lives.
I’ll begin this review straight up by disclosing that I read this novel over three nights, during the working week, at the end of a school term. Over 600 pages, but leaving it and only reading a few chapters a night was not an option. This novel is sensational. Every page, every chapter; I loved it from beginning to end. There are a lot of reasons why, and I’ll probably not even get to cover a tenth of them in this review, but I’ll do my best to convince you to read it!
It’s worth noting why I actually decided to read this novel at this point in time. I have been contemplating reading some more Paullina Simons over the last few months, and have even bought The Bronze Horseman series, but I was really looking for a standalone to get into at first. Reading a series is such an investment of time and something I usually reserve to my Christmas/Summer holidays. A few years ago I read Red Leaves, and like The Girl in Times Square, it blew me away. I devoured it, couldn’t stop thinking about it, and remember it still to this day quite clearly. So when I was perusing Paullina’s novels and saw that The Girl in Times Square had the character of Spencer Patrick O’Malley, the same detective as in Red Leaves, I was sold. Red Leaves is Spencer’s back story, but published after The Girl in Times Square. Having now read both I can point out that while the two are connected, you don’t need to read both to understand or enjoy either, but you really should read both because they are cracking good reads!
Now, over to The Girl in Times Square. I think it’s very important to approach this novel as Lily’s story, rather than a missing person crime novel. Amy’s disappearance, while important to the story, is not the true focus, merely a catalyst event that puts Lily onto a certain pathway and begins to shape her journey. Amy, and who she is/was, is not central to this story but her relationship with the other characters in the story is quite pivotal though. I feel it’s important to note this because I’ve read a lot of reviews that have canned this novel because it focused on Lily’s life and not Amy’s disappearance. If you think that after reading it, you’ve entirely missed the point of the novel. This is not a crime novel that follows a usual crime story formula; it’s a coming of age story about a girl at a crossroads. Approach it from this angle and you will love it as much as I did (I think!).
Paullina creates an amazing cast within this story. The characters surrounding Lily, her family, friends, medical staff and other associates, are all brought vividly to life, and you begin to love and hate them in equal measure. Alcoholism is examined in great detail, and its devastating effects upon an individual relationship, as well as a family dynamic, are portrayed to perfection. There are scenes in this novel that are difficult to read; they hit hard and true. Lily’s battle with her illness is documented brilliantly and I travelled a great emotional journey right alongside her, highs and lows.
Paullina has a skill at bringing a story to life. You feel as though you have been dropped into a scene; you can smell what the characters smell, feel the temperature, see what they can see, and feel their emotions. She really is a master story teller. All of the events that make up this novel and all of the living that goes on with the characters converge into a masterful story quite unlike any I’ve read before. It’s a big book and it’s a great book, fast paced and engaging right the way though. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough. To examine the plot in any more detail would probably result in spoilers, so I’ll leave it at this and look forward to anyone reading the novel and letting me know what they think.