by Kelli Hawkins

Publisher: Harper Collins, 2024

Publisher’s blurb

Does murder run in the family? The brilliant, unsettling new psychological suspense from the bestselling author of Other People’s Houses.

When a teenage girl goes missing, Nicola Miller fears for her own daughter. Not for Abby’s mental health or safety, but that she might have had something to do with it. She worries her daughter is a killer. Just like her. 

Nicola has never told the truth about what happened with Abby’s father. But now as the search for Cara continues, Nicola, risks her secret coming to light. And she’s not the only one with something to hide. Her mother, Joyce, and her daughter also have secrets of their own.

A stunning, captivating and yet unnerving exploration of how the sins of the fathers – or in this case, the mothers – can echo down the generations.

Reviewer: Zoe Deleuil

This is Kelli Hawkin’s third novel, and she has delivered another tightly plotted crime novel with vivid settings, complicated characters and a twist I didn’t see coming. The title refers to three generations of Miller women; our protagonist, journalist and single mother Nicola, her mother Joyce, and Nicola’s teenage daughter, Abby. Its central question: does murder run in the family?

Set in picturesque, fictional Arundel on the NSW Central Coast, with disturbing flashbacks to a Canadian ski village, the reader is instantly dropped into the kind of familiar small town where everyone knows everyone but doesn’t always like them. Abby’s friend Cara has gone missing, and both Nicola and her partner, Lee, a police officer, begin to trace her movements and trade information, in a dynamic reminiscent of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.

As the story develops and the back stories of the Miller women are gradually revealed, it becomes clear that all three women have past deeds they would prefer to keep hidden. The plotting is consistently strong throughout, and Hawkins weaves a complicated story, rich in detail, that is almost entirely plausible. I particularly liked Nicola’s voice, which provides an entertaining and familiar narration of daily life as a sandwich-generation wife, daughter, employee and partner, who happens to be trying to find a missing girl on the side.

I wonder how my mother heard about it, though on reflection it’s obvious. My mother – Joyce Miller, secretary of the golf club, CWA treasurer, lady who lunches, meals on wheels volunteer, Rotarian, ex-nurse at the local hospital – knows everything about everyone in this town. Sometimes I find it funny, sometimes useful. Mostly it’s annoying.

There were, for me, moments that stretched credibility – without wanting to give away any spoilers, statistics firmly refute the novel’s central question, with men committing almost ninety percent of murders (which was also my issue with Sharp Objects).* But the somewhat over-the-top plot, along with its expert pace and tension, is what makes this book a satisfying, somewhat guilty pleasure – vicarious revenge on the page is so much less messy than the real thing, and for fans of fast-paced and gripping psychological suspense, The Miller Women will more than deliver.