Title: Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke
Publisher: Text Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Elle Castillo once trained as a social worker, supporting young victims of violent crime. Now she hosts a popular true crime podcast that focuses on cold cases of missing and abducted children.
After four seasons of successfully solving these cases in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Elle decides to tackle her white whale: The Countdown Killer. Twenty years ago, TCK was terrorizing the community, kidnapping and ritualistically murdering three girls over seven days, each a year younger than the last. Then, after he took his eleven-year-old victim, the pattern—and the murders—abruptly stopped. No one has ever known why.
When Elle follows up on a listener tip only to discover the man’s dead body, she feels at fault. Then, within days, a child is abducted—a young girl who seems to fit suspiciously into the TCK sequence halted decades before. While media and law enforcement long ago concluded that TCK had suicided, Elle has never believed TCK was dead. She had hoped her investigation would lay that suspicion to rest, but her podcast seems instead to be inciting new victims.
Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke is a riveting mystery about a true crime podcaster’s attempt to identify a long dormant serial killer.
Elle Castillo’s true crime podcast, Justice Delayed, has become more popular with each season. Her newest podcast features a serial killer dubbed The Countdown Killer “TCK” who went dormant twenty years ago. His first victim in 1996 was a twenty-year-old woman and each girl he kidnapped afterward was always a year younger. TCK went dark after his final victim, an eleven-year-old girl, escaped. Although the police have worked on the case sporadically over the years, their efforts yielded no new evidence. Elle has put a lot of hours into the case and with every episode, Justice Delayed draws more listeners.
It appears Elle’s hard work has paid off when she is contacted by someone who claims to know TCK’s identity. Unfortunately, the tipster is murdered before Elle arrives at to meet him. Frustrated but certain she might be getting close to finding TCK, Elle is soon in a race against time when a young girl is kidnapped. She is certain TCK is responsible but her friend, police Commander Ayaan Ridwaan, is skeptical. Undaunted, Elle continues pursuing her theory, but the stakes become much higher when another young girl is taken.
Elle is happily married to Hennepin County Medical Examiner Martin Castillo. He is very proud she has solved cold cases because of her podcast. He is quite supportive of her work, but he cannot help but worry for her safety. Elle tends to become overly involved as she tirelessly works around the clock tracking down leads and following new evidence. She is entirely fixated on the TCK case and she is stressed and exhausted after the tipster’s death and the young girl’s kidnapping. Martin and Ayaan fear Elle has developed tunnel vision as her obsession grows. If TCK is the person responsible for the girl’s disappearance, Elle knows she must act quickly before he takes another victim. With time running out, will Elle finally find the one thread that will unravel the mystery of TCK’s identity?
Alternating between the podcast episodes and events in the present, Girl, 11 is a fast-paced and engrossing mystery. Elle is an intense woman who is on a mission to crack the TCK case but her obsession soon clouds her judgment. She is also less than reliable as she comes up with wild theories without evidence to back up her ideas. Elle is initially a valuable asset to Ayaan as she assists in the kidnapping case. But Ayaan fears history is repeating itself as Elle becomes less clearheaded and more erratic during the investigation. With a shocking twist and jaw-dropping turn, Amy Suiter Clarke brings this clever debut to suspenseful conclusion.