A new crime novel that draws on some of the most horrific child abuse cases in recent memory is tipped to be one of the year's biggest literary releases.
Girl A tells the story of six siblings held hostage and terrorised by their parents — and the daughter who is the first to escape and alert the authorities.
It is the debut novel from Abigail Dean, a 32-year-old Google lawyer living in London who took three months off work to begin writing.
The finished manuscript sparked a nine-way bidding war in the UK, eventually fetching a 'major six-figure sum', according to the Guardian.
Debut sensation: Girl A is the debut novel from Abigail Dean (pictured) a 32-year-old Google lawyer living in London who took three months off work to begin writing. It is tipped to be a hit
The North American rights went for seven figures and it has already been optioned for a TV series.
The book tells the story of each of the six abused children, but it starts with the death of their mother in prison, seen through the eyes of Alexandra Gracie (Lex) — the daughter who escaped and is known to the Press as Girl A.
It paints a picture of the torture the children suffered at the hands of their over-bearing, religious, fanatic father and explores the effects of trauma and the horrors of the media spotlight.
Dean was inspired by a number of real-life cases, including California couple David and Louise Turpin who kept their 13 children in a 'House of Horrors'.
The Turpins were sentenced on to life in prison in 2019 after pleading guilty to neglect and abuse of 12 of their 13 children.
The couple had beaten and chained their children, forcing them to live in squalid conditions with little time in the outside world. The abuse and neglect was so severe it stunted their children's growth, led to muscle wasting and left two of their daughters unable to bear children.
True crime: Girl A tells the story of six siblings held hostage and terrorised by their parents — and the daughter who is the first to escape and alert the authorities. It was inspired by a number of real-life cases, including California's 'House of Horrors' family (pictured)
Dean also read about Jasmine Block, a Minnesota teenager who was kept captive for a month and repeatedly assaulted after being abducted from her family home in 2017.
She finally escaped and swam across a lake to freedom, where she was found injured but alive.
'From those cases and a few others I saw the power of teenage girls to escape and be incredibly strong,' Dean told the Guardian. 'That was something I wanted to think about in terms of Lex, her resilience and intelligence in the face of a devastating experience.'
Among the other cases she researched was that of Fred and Rose West.
However Dean wanted to focus on the aftermath of the abuse, rather than the fear of whether the children would get out of the house.
Survivor: Author Abigail Dean was also inspired by abduction survivors like Jasmine Block, pictured, who escaped and swam to safety after a month in captivity
She continued: 'You have the reassurance at the start that Lex is OK, then it’s a case of the years that follow – what then?
'Once the headlines have been recycled, what happens to the people who have been at the heart of these things? How do you live in the aftermath of that?'
January is traditionally a month when publishers release their anticipated best-sellers. Girl On A Train was among the hit titles released at the start of the year. Its author Paula Hawkins is full of praise for Girl A, saying she 'loved it'.
Industry title The Bookseller said it expects Girl A to be 'one of the biggest' fiction debuts of 2021.
Best-selling author Jeffery Deaver added: 'Nothing short of astonishing... Rarely does a novel offer up such unique plotting, such heart-stopping psychological drama, and such a rich portrayal of its inhabitants. A modern-day classic.'
Dean is now working on a second novel and juggles writing with her day job at Google.
Girl A by Abigail Dean, published by Harper Collins, £14.99, out now