The Miller Women by Kelli Hawkins

Reviewed by Rod McLary

Kelli Hawkins’ novels are without a doubt very good psychological thrillers and her latest novel is no exception.  The title refers to three generations of Miller women – Joyce [grandmother], her daughter Nicola and grandaughter Abby.  As well as their blood connection, they have something else in common which is not apparent until towards the end of the narrative.

There are four parts to this novel entitled respectively ‘After’, ‘Before’, ’10 August’ [the critical date] ‘After’, and an Epilogue which takes place six months later, and which neatly brings the narrative to a close.  Each part contains sections headed by the name of the character who is either narrating it or is the key focus of the section.  The narrative does not unfold in a linear fashion which occasionally causes some uncertainty when a particular event occurred.

The basic premise of the novel is simple enough.  A teenage girl goes missing – a friend of Abby’s – and Nicola is understandably fearful for Abby but it is not only for a parent’s natural concern for her daughter’s safety but also for a more worrying reason.  Did Abby have something to do with her friend’s disappearance?  Well – only time will tell.

In the early part of the novel, Nicola remembers when she was nineteen and working in Canada at a ski resort.  One evening, she meets a wealthy and handsome young man who entrances her with his warmth and charm.  She is unable to resist his invitation to join him and his friends at their accommodation in the mountains.  What transpires there changes the trajectory of Nicola’s life and accelerates her return to Australia – and remains her secret.  Her recollection of the event is of considerable significance and it reverberates through the remainder of the narrative.

Secrets abound in this novel.  Both Joyce and Abby have secrets too and, when the secrets are exposed as they inevitably will be, fireworks ensue.  But almost every character has something to hide and the exposure of the unknown contributes to a tense and challenging psychological plot.

It is necessary though to put aside any thought that the world is simply black and white; there are indeed shades of grey in a world where nothing can be easily defined as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.  Doing the wrong thing for the right purpose appears to be the mantra of more than one character in this novel.  There is perhaps a slight tongue in cheek feeling through the book which adds a sense of irony but which does not detract from the question whether a predisposition to murder is genetic.  A serious question indeed!

The author has crafted – as she has done in her previous novels especially Other People’s Houses – a tense and psychologically thrilling novel which continues to surprise and even shock the reader as it progresses to its denouement.  It is an enjoyable and captivating read.

Kelli Hawkins writes reports for a private investigator as well novels for adults and children.  The Miller Women is her fourth novel.

The Miller Women


by Kelli Hawkins

Harper Collins

ISBN 978 1 4607 6334 6

$32.99; 308pp



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