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Literature / Pretty Girls

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A missing girl.
A hope never lost.
A killer never found...

Twenty years ago, Julia Carroll went missing.
It was a mystery that was never resolved and not knowing the truth has torn her family apart. Nowadays, the news is filled with the case of Anna Kilpatrick, another girl that has gone missing, and showing eerie similarities to Julia's disappearance. And Claire Scott becomes convinced that the two cases are linked.

After her husband gets killed in a robbery, Claire Scott stumbles across some violent, pornographic videos on his computer. Struggling to come to terms with what she sees, Claire wants to head deeper into the truth behind these videos. Especially when one shows a woman who looks strikingly similar to Anna Kilpatrick... could this lead to a clue about Julia?

Pettry Girls contains the following Tropes

  • The Alcoholic: Helen Carroll began to drink heavily, after Julia disappeared. She does seem to have cut back over time.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Lydia Delgado with Paul Scott for the last third of the novel.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: The novel's cover differs vastly from country to country. The US cover above shows Julia's necklace submerged in water, which gives off a very melancholic atmosphere. The British cover is much less colorful and shows a girl's ripped picture with blood around it.
  • Amicable Exes: Sam and Helen Carroll eventually got divorced when the strain of Julia's disappearance and their lack of knowledge broke their marriage. They still loved each other, even when Helen got remarried.
  • Arc Number: 03/04/1991, the date of Julia's disappearance.
  • Arc Words: "Tell me you want this."
  • Asshole Victim
    • Zigzagged in the case of Paul Scott. First considered to not be this trope, but seen as a possibility when shadier personality aspects begin to arise, before doubt goes back to the first part. When Paul's true monstrosity is revealed, it's almost a triumph and joy to see him die for real.
    • Played straight with Sheriff Carl Huckabee, when their role in the torture porn circle is made clear.
  • Call-Back: Captain Mayhew assures Claire that the snuff videos she found were fakes, explaining how these videos use things called squibs, little bags filled with fake blood, that burst through remote control or when pressure is applied to them. During the last third of the novel, Fred Nolan brings up squibs again, to explain that Paul's death in the beginning was faked.
  • Cassandra Truth: Lydia told Claire that Paul tried to rape her, but she refused to believe her. Once she begins to see that Paul might not be as great of a guy as she initially thought, she asks Lydia for a proper explanation and realizes that she was telling the truth.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The keytag in the beginning is off-handedly mentioned, then becomes much sought-after by various people and proves much more valuable. It contains pictures and contact information on all of Paul's... 'clients'.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Sam Carroll mentions multiple suspects listed in Julia's police files, whom the police has spoken to or investigated, ranging from employees in locations she frequented to peeping tom to classmates. The peeping tom mentioned is not only the one who killed Julia, but is also Paul's deceased father.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: All of the victims in the snuff films, as detailed under Cruel and Unusual Death.
  • Contraception Deception: Claire lies to Paul that she wants children (which he does), but she continues taking birth control, because of her Freudian Excuse of losing her older sister Julia when she was a kid and Julia was a teenager. This turns out to be Laser-Guided Karma, though, for Paul, who created videos of himself raping, torturing, and killing kidnapped girls, and there's a pretty strong implication that he wanted kids to abuse.
    Her husband made it clear he wanted a big family. He wanted lots and lots of kids to inoculate himself against loss and Claire had tried and tried with him until she had agreed to go see a fertility expert who had informed Claire that she couldn't have children because she had an IUD and was taking birth control pills.
  • Control Freak: Paul.
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: Sam Carroll began to visit Ben Carver, a homosexual serial killer, on death row and spoke with him, because Julia's police file mentions that he implied to have known something about her disappearance.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death
    • All of the woman in the snuff videos. Kidnapped, then tortured over the course of several days with things such as cattle prods, branding irons, subjected to waterboarding and cut up with knives. Finally, they were sliced with a matchete and raped as they died. And then it's revealed that they were mutilated post-mortem as well.
    • Paul Scott ends up being forced to bleed out from a neck wound, which takes a while. Though given the things he had done and was planning to do, this is not considered too cruel for him.
    • Sam Carroll, who turns out to have been forced to watch Julia's torture and eventual death, all while being held in place by Paul, before he killed him with the medicine.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Lydia named her daughter Julia, after her missing sister. Though she does not go by that name.
  • Destroy the Abusive Home: Claire and Paul burn down his childhood home in their final confrontation.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Claire smashed and dislocated a woman's kneecap, because she blamed a girl that was raped at a frat party for drinking and not knowing it would happen.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sam Carroll killed himself via lethal injection several years after Julia disappeared. Turns out that he didn't commit suicide, but was killed by Paul injecting the medicine.
  • Faking the Dead: Paul Scott's death in the beginning was staged with the help of the FBI.
  • Finally Found the Body: They Never Found the Body that belonged to Julia, until Claire tracked Paul down to his childhood home and he revealed that she was buried there.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Zigzagged with Lydia and Claire. Lydia was responsible, before she started to mingle with the wrong crowd and took drugs, eventually leaving the family. Claire was seen as more responsible once Lydia left, but grew up to mostly be a trophy wife to her millionaire husband.
  • Grief-Induced Split: After Julia's disappearance and murder (though her body is not found for decades), her parents, Sam and Helen, split up. They remain on good terms, though, even sleeping together sporadically (a fact which Helen's new husband seems both aware and somewhat accepting of).
  • Happily Married
    • Paul and Claire Scott have been going strong for 18 years. Even when Claire had a few flings on the side, she still remained deeply in love with Paul. And Paul was always a devoted, attentive husband.
    • Sam and Helen Carroll were happily married, until the strain of Julia's disappearance began to break things.
  • In-Series Nickname: Sheriff Huckabee was called 'Huckleberry' by the Carrolls, which has grown to become their nickname for the police investigators in general.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Sam never resented his ex-wife for remarrying, knowing that she was happy and that it also helped his children.
  • Karma Houdini: Sheriff Carl Huckabee dies from a heart attack, just as the information about the snuff film circle spreads across the internet, meaning no actual consequences will ever be taken.
  • Kill It with Fire: Paul's mother was caught in the car's fire from the accident.
  • Kindly Vet: Sam Carroll worked as a vet for a long time, treating animals. His granddaughter, Dee, is thinking of studying to become one in college.
  • Legacy Character: Paul is eventually revealed to be this, as his father taught him to rape, torture, and kill women. He relishes his position and chases Claire specifically because she's Julia's sister.
  • Mama Bear: Lydia is fiercely protective of her daughter, Dee.
  • Never Suicide: Everybody thinks Sam committed suicide over Julia's death, but he didn't; Paul killed him.
  • Not the First Victim: Julia is ultimately revealed to have been one of the first victims of the present-day Serial Killer, Claire's husband, Paul. In fact, he married her specifically because of her relationship to Julia. And he also killed their father, Sam, and made it look like a suicide.
  • Off with His Head!: Paul's father was decapitated in the car accident that killed him and his wife.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Dee is actually a nickname that came from Deedus Christ, something often said in her youth. She admits to thinking of going back to using her actual name when it's time to head off to college.
  • Recovered Addict
    • Lydia took cocaine and other drugs for a long time. Once she split from her family and got pregnant later on, she immediately went cold turkey, because she didn't want her child to be taken away. She has been clean for 17 years.
    • Helen Carroll, too, considering her previously heavy drinking.
  • The Reveal: Helen knew what had happened to Julia for years, because she found her husband's corpse and the video of Julia's torture was still in the player. She decided to keep it to herself, wanting to protect her children from the horror that their sister went through.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: Claire does this when the masked man whispers something to his victim in a video. She turns up the volume and replays it, until she can hear what he is saying. "Tell me you want this", which is one of the two big clues that the masked man is, indeed, Paul.
  • The Runaway: Sheriff Huckabee quickly formed the theory that Julia was not the victim of a crime, but simply a teen that ran away from home and likely joined some 'free thinking cult' in the end.
  • The Sheriff: Sheriff Huckabee, who was in charge of Julia's case.
  • Snuff Film: The videos that Claire finds on Paul's computer.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Julia was beautiful, and so is Claire, which leads to people underestimating her and kidnapping and murdering Julia.
  • Something Only They Would Say
    • Ben Carver gives Sam Carroll a hint about Julia's disappearance by giving him a copy of You Are Old Only Once! by Dr. Seuss and having a line written inside: "First you must have the images. Then come the words." The term images was used by a peeping tom, saying his watching was taking images of the girls. Sam realizes that said peeping tom was the one to take Julia and is Paul's father.
    • Claire realizes the masked man's identity when she hears him say "Tell me you want this" in one of his videos.
  • Stealing from the Till: Fred Nolan reveals to Claire that Paul has been stealing 3 million dollars from his own firm, despite already being very rich.
  • Tap on the Head
    • Averted with Lydia, who got hit on the head at least twice, before she fell unconscious.
    • Played straight with Claire, who gets punched in the face once and faints. And it's even said that full force was not used on her.
  • Torture Basement: The location the snuff filmes take place in one. Subverted, when it turns out to be a garage that was meticulously altered to look like a basement. There is also the Torture Barn, used by Paul's father.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Adam Quinn. He asked Claire to send him the work-in-progress files from Paul's computer, which resulted in her finding the videos and leading her down the path of wanting to know the truth.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Paul Scott's father was a peeping tom, who went on to kidnap and torture young women and recorded it all on VHS, before killing and raping them. Paul 'learned the trade' from him when he was a teenager.
  • Witless Protection Program: Paul was somehow able to gain immunity, despite being the one who kidnapped, raped, tortured, and ultimately killed many women, and after all that, he was in the area to reveal himself to Claire.