19 January 2016

review: GHOST GIRLS, Cath Ferla

 Synopsis (Echo Publishing)

Winter in Sydney. The city is brimming with foreign students. Sophie Sandilands takes a job teaching at an English language school. When one of her students leaps to her death it becomes clear that lurking within the psyche of this community is a deep sense of despair and alienation. When it is revealed that the dead woman on the pavement has stolen another’s identity, Sophie is drawn into the mystery.

Unable to resist the investigative instincts that run in her blood, Sophie finds herself unravelling a sinister operation that is trawling the foreign student market for its victims. But as Sophie works on tracking down the criminals it becomes evident that someone has knowledge of her and the disappearances in her own past. Will Sophie solve the mystery before she too becomes a ghost?

Ghost Girls richly evokes the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of Sydney’s Chinatown, and imagines dark exploitative demands behind closed suburban doors.

My Take

GHOST GIRLS took me into a world that I really hadn't thought too much about - English language students who come to Australia, mainly from China. Many of them come with high expectations, not much money, and very homesick. I probably knew all that. But the book gives the reader a "behind the scenes" look at the sleazy Sydney underworld that preys on these students, and just how vulnerable they are.

Sophie Sandilands is part Chinese herself, brought back to the "safety" of Australia from China by her Australian father. But even then her Chinese mother disappeared and Sophie has never forgiven her father, a private investigator, for the role that he played in that.

One of the themes of the book is disappearance: David, the young boy who disappeared in a playground in Beijing while Sophie was caring for him, girls who seem to disappear without trace from the English language classes in the school where Sophie teaches. And underneath all an underworld that deals in pornography, prostitution and drug distribution.

An intriguing read.

About the author
Cath Ferla is a multi­platform writer with a background in screenwriting and script editing, print and online journalism, educational publishing and long and short form fiction. She is also a Secondary School­qualified teacher, with teaching experience and qualifications in the area of EAL (English as an Acquired Language). She has also lived in Beijing, China and studied Mandarin Chinese.


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