Fantastic character study/mystery that finds its colors from the same palette as writers such as Julian Barnes (Flaubert’s Parrot for example). With not a wasted moment or phrase, The Girl on the Pier tells the story of an artist with skill but without imagination, he finds work as a forensic artist who uses the techniques of sculpture to recreate a likeness on the skulls of murder victims.
The mystery unravels slows as we learn the details of the artist’s very sad life. Abandoned repeatedly, he is clearly damaged and we sympathize with him from the outset. The story skips back and forth in what should be a very frenetic narrative, but really isn’t. The non-linear plotting actually creates tension and is essential to the proper presentation of the story. Really very well done and I am amazed that an author would attempt this complicated style in a first novel, much less pull it off so well.
I always avoid discussing the plot in short novels and really it is best to go into this one knowing as little as possible. Called upon to take the skull of a murdered girl left to decompose on a pier many years before, the artist tells us his life story as his hands attempt to recreate the face of a girl abandoned many years ago—but at what cost? The Girl on the Pier has many surprises and subtleties that cry out for a re-read to appreciate how good this book really is. It is early but I am confident that The Girl on the Pier will be on my 2015 Favorites list.