Title: The Broken Girls
Author: Simone St. James
Publisher: Berkley Books
Date: March 20, 2018
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Format: Hardcover (Book of the Month Club Edition)
My Rating: 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Get Your Own: Amazon | Book Depository
A breakout suspense novel from the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare.
Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .
Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.
When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced. . . .
The Broken Girls on Goodreads
This book was not quite what I expected, but in the end I was not disappointed. From the limited description I had read prior to picking this book up, I was expecting a ghost story based in something more like an asylum than a boarding school. And while certain elements of this story matched my expectations, others strayed in a totally different direction.
When I approach a mystery novel I don’t like going into it knowing too much. Reading a detailed synopsis or review ruins the suspense and gets me making predictions that I have a hard time giving up. So I went into this book pretty much only having read the first line of the Goodreads summary, “Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall.” I was expecting a ghost story, something gothic and sinister, but Simone St. James delivered much more than that.
This book is indeed a ghost story (and it was definitely creepy at times!), but it’s also a murder mystery and a story of deep, long-lasting female friendships. St. James deftly weaves issues of mental health into the narrative as she explores the lives of her characters, both past and present. And for those interested in World War II historical fiction, she even throws in a reference to the Holocaust which ends up being a major plot point.
The one aspect of the book that I wasn’t a huge fan of was Fiona’s side of the story. As you can tell from the Goodread’s description, this book is broken up into two alternating parts: the story of the four girls from the past and Fiona’s investigations in the present. The two are intricately linked and cannot stand without each other, but Fiona’s story just didn’t seem to be as well developed as that of the four girls from the past. Her character fell flat and her relationship with her boyfriend Jamie was a little too cheesy and unrealistic for my taste.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. The ghost story and murder mystery made it a perfect Fall / Halloween read and the few issues I had with Fiona’s storyline, character, and relationship were easily overshadowed by the suspense of the mystery and the haunting at Idlewild Hall. If you like gothic ghost stories told from a modern perspective give The Broken Girls a try.
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