Why we love it: A startlingly good thriller set not in Stockholm, the home counties of England or east coast USA, but in… Canberra, Australia. Yep, that’s right. Only Daughter is the stunning crime fiction from the new kid on the block, Australian debut author Anna Snoekstra.
Told from the point of view of a young woman on the run from her family – rich father and cold stepmother in Perth – and crimes she wants to forget, the young woman is presented with the opportunity to become Rebecca Winter, missing from her Canberra home for more than ten years and with whom she bears a striking resemblance. The detective who’s been working on the missing person case for all those years escorts the woman to the home of the missing girl to meet her long lost ‘parents’. In a bid to stay undetected the woman needs to get the detective on side and off track – not too difficult as she is clever and ruthless. She exploits the guilt that’s engulfing him at not having found the missing girl who’s now seemingly engineered her own escape.
The Winter family embrace the young woman as their long-lost daughter and, once ensconced with them, the new Bec finds it all too cosy being in the midst of a loving family , after never having known one herself. She gets a little too comfortable in Bec’s old bedroom, she’s attracted to Bec’s best friend’s brother and even Bec’s own brothers. And though there’s a steely ruthlessness to her, she soon becomes sympathetic with Bec, who went missing when she was just 16. She becomes so absorbed in her new identity that sometimes she forgets she’s not Rebecca.
In alternating chapters, the story is told by the real Rebecca Winter in the lead-up to her disappearance. The real Bec recounts the chilling, inexplicable occurrences in her home, as well as the ordinary musings of a teenage girl – her crappy job at the local Maccas, shoplifting sprees with her best friends, looking after her little, naughty twin brothers over the hot summer holidays, and her crushes on guys. As Rebecca and her imposter’s stories begin to merge, we’re drawn to a nail-biting race to find out what really happened to the real Bec and what will become of the woman who inhabits her life, as the truth begins to close in on her.
Snoekstra’s debut is truly stunning, a clever psychological thriller that gets right under your skin with its shrewd characterisation and original, multi-layered plot. Snoekstra’s being billed as our homegrown Gillian Flynn or Paula Hawkins and it’s not hard to see why. Be warned, Only Daughter is one of those thrillers that will have you turning the pages until way after midnight – a once-you-start-you-can’t-stop kind of thriller that keeps you on your toes until the very last pages. We’re not surprised it’s already been optioned for film and the same screenwriter as The Girl on the Train has written the script.
Anna Snoekstra is a Canberra-born writer. At seventeen she decided to forgo a full-time job to move to Melbourne and become a writer. She studied creative writing and cinema at the University of Melbourne and screenwriting at RMIT. She has written for film, fringe theatre and has directed music videos, as well as working as cheesemonger, waitress, receptionist, cinema attendant and film reviewer! Only Daughter is her debut novel.