Book Review: The Girl on the Platform by Bryony Pearce
Exhausted new mother Bridget is on her way home from work late one night on the train when she sees something shocking; a little girl being grabbed off the platform of a station her train is speeding through and thrown into a white van. Nobody else sees it, though, and since Bridget is suffering from post-natal depression and on a strong medication with possible hallucinatory side effects, it soon becomes apparent that the police don’t quite believe her.
Which doesn’t explain the white van which starts following Bridget around. Or the incredible detail she can recall, right down to the logo of the rose on the little girl’s blazer pocket. A specialist in data analysis, Bridget starts doing what she does best; investigate the data. All the data on children who vanished without trace, over the last twenty years, with particular focus on those missing from railway stations. One case, twenty years old, strikes a strange chord, and when Bridget finds herself in the small Northern town a little girl called Frances vanished from, something starts stirring in her memory. Something impossible.
The twist here is actually telegraphed really early, even though it’s not explicitly spelled out, but the reader has to wait for Bridget to discover it and to uncover all the details about why. There are still some threads left open - why therapist Gillian was so loyal to Bridget’s mother didn’t really add up for me, and what about all that data Bridget analysed? Because she really did find a pattern, one which makes me wonder if there might be a second book here where Bridget helps the police find more missing children. I’d love to read it, if so. Bridget’s past would provide a major impetus for her to get involved in such cases and she has the skillset to do it.
It’s unusual to read a character with mental illness, depicted with clear and unflinching detail, as the heroine rather than the villain in a mystery thriller. PND is very real and can be crippling, and although it’s eventually revealed that Bridget’s issues are both deeper and at least partially induced by external forces, her struggles as a working mother to a young baby (with dietary issues, no less) and her desperate desire to do the right thing by her daughter are painful to read. This is gut-wrenching in parts, I think especially to anyone who has children and has felt that crippling fear they’re failing as a parent, and the contrast between that and the shocking emotional betrayals of the eventual villain are extreme.
I honestly couldn’t put this down once I’d got into it, which didn’t take long at all; I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. Five stars for a terrific read and I’ll definitely be looking for more books from this author.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.