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Mister Tender's Girl


Mister Tender's Girl

Almost 15 years ago, in a wooded English park, a young teenage girl named Alice Hill was repeatedly stabbed by two neighborhood classmates. Though she survived, she was badly scarred and suffered from panic attacks and other post-traumatic issues as a result. Her family was damaged as well, and soon after the attack she moved, along with her mother and younger brother, to the US to start life anew. Her beloved father stayed behind in England and was later stabbed to death on the street; the murderer was never caught. This is all in the background of Carter Wilson’s thriller, MISTER TENDER’S GIRL, and the danger for Alice only increases as the pages turn.

The terrible irony of the attempt on Alice’s life is that the twin sisters who made it, Sylvia and Melinda Glassin, were inspired by a fictional character created by Alice’s own father. When Alice and her brother Thomas were small, their illustrator father Reggie created fantastical tales for them about two siblings in a magical world. Out of these stories came the creepy and powerfully evil Mister Tender, a bartender who was able to make your dreams come true, for a steep price. The graphic novels featuring Mister Tender were popular and changed the course of Reggie Hill’s career. But they also attracted the obsessive attention of people like the Glassin sisters, who decide to sacrifice Alice to please Mister Tender. In court the sisters are convicted, but that justice does little to heal the Hill family.

"Bloody, fast-paced and totally entertaining, MISTER TENDER’S GIRL pulls a thread from the recent Slender Man attack and with it weaves a twisting and turning tale."

Now as an adult living in New Hampshire, the intensely private Alice owns a small coffee shop. When she arrives to work one day to find an unpublished manuscript of her father’s, she is shocked. And when she sees that some very recent drawings of her have been added to the last pages of the manuscript, she grows terrified. Included with the manuscript is a website and password that take her into a small and frightening world of people who are more than preoccupied with her and have been stalking her for years. The leader of this group calls himself Mr. Interested, and before long Alice is drawn into a battle of wits and nerve that threatens not only her life, but the lives of those she cares about most. Mr. Interested wants something from Alice, and he has orchestrated an elaborate plan to get to her. To stop him, Alice must confront her past and her greatest fears.

Alice is at the novel’s front and center, while the other characters are less developed. However, this narrow perspective lends itself well to the anxious, claustrophobic feel of the book, which mirrors Alice’s frantic emotional state. One lesson Reggie imparted to his daughter was to trust no one, and readers should keep that in mind. Everyone is a suspect, and anyone could be the insanity behind Mr. Interested.

Wilson’s style is brisk and brutal, but with enough surprisingly poetic turns of phrase to keep readers invested in the storytelling as much as the story. Bloody, fast-paced and totally entertaining, MISTER TENDER’S GIRL pulls a thread from the recent Slender Man attack and with it weaves a twisting and turning tale.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on February 16, 2018

Mister Tender's Girl
by Carter Wilson