The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Book Description:

Published: March 20, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

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. . . .

Review –

OMG!    Five Stars!

This is the best “edge of your seat” book that I have read or listened to in ages.  I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves a great murder mystery that involves the past colliding with the present.

In The Broken Girls, Simone St. James delivers two gothic mysteries for the price of one. The narrative bobs and weaves through time with two sets of characters.

In the contemporary mystery, Fiona searches for definitive proof that Deb’s murderer is in prison. The deeper she digs, the more she realizes everything has not been tied up into a pretty bow. Plenty of dangerous darkness lingers in the present.

Back in 1950, we meet four vastly different girls—haunted Sonia, abandoned CeCe, athletic Roberta, and beautiful Katie—who become closer than sisters through their experiences at Idlewild and their shared brokenness. Mary Hand is a real presence in their lives, but not nearly as terrifying as the traumas they’ve already overcome.

They love one another fiercely. But one of them won’t leave Idlewild Hall alive.

With this dual narrative, the author produces an excellent  mirage, interweaving historical fiction, thriller, gothic horror, and mystery into an incredibly satisfying and cohesive whole. Every character springs vividly from the page. In a predominantly female cast, St. James shuns stereotypes and creates complicated, flawed women who support one another at any cost.

The societal commentary is frequent and biting: how some lives are prioritized over others; corruption in police forces; psychological trauma going untreated, seen more as a weakness and failing than a genuine problem to be fixed; how society has constantly devalued and oppressed women.

Sisterhood is the beating, undying heart of The Broken Girls; without it, crimes go unpunished and the victims remain nameless.

And, of course, we can not leave out the ghost. Mary Hand takes a backseat to the primary plots—she’s more of a signal post, a ghostly emblem of Idlewild and the horrors the girls have already experienced. Yet her moments are perfectly eerie and unsettling, adding a supernatural, psychological flavor to the already bloody tragedies.

By the last page, St. James has gathered up every thread into a solid knot. The Broken Girls is an intense, emotional lament on loss and pain. 

This is my first read by this author, but it will not be my last !!!!!

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