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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Eerie, Atmospheric Literary Thriller a Shivery Gothic Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"They were trapped here at Idlewild.  But Idlewild wasn't everything.  It wasn't the world" (168).

Idlewild Hall—"the boarding school of last resort ... where parents stashed their embarrassments, their failures, and their recalcitrant girls" (16)—is made for teens like Cece Frank, Roberta Greene, and Sonia Gallipeau.  Each hiding their own dark secret, the three become roommates in 1950 at the cold, isolated institution.  Although none of them are thrilled about being stuck in such a grim place, they find comfort in their newfound friendship.  Like hundreds of Idlewild girls before them, they swap shivery stories about Mary Hand, the veiled ghost whose unsettled spirit haunts the school garden where her baby is rumored to be buried.  None of them doubt her existence—they've all felt her dark, menacing presence.  When one of the roommates disappears without a trace, the others can't help but wonder if she's been a victim of an apparition hungry for revenge.

Forty-four years later, the body of 20-year-old Deb Sheridan is discovered on Idlewild's long-abandoned campus.  Her death by strangulation is clearly the work of human hands, most likely those of her boyfriend, who's convicted and imprisoned for the crime.  Despite getting closure, the tragedy breaks the Sheridan family.  Two decades later, Fiona still can't shake the feeling that something wasn't right about her sister's case.  When she learns that an anonymous benefactor is restoring Idlewild Hall, it stirs up her old feelings of unease.  Desperate to find out what really happened to Deb, Fiona launches her own investigation under the guise of writing a magazine article about the reopening of Idlewild Hall.  To find answers, she'll have to confront the school's many ghosts and battle the sinister forces that haunt not just Idlewild, but her own tortured past.

I have a long-standing rule about not reading creepy books while my husband is out of town.  So, even though I made the mistake of starting The Broken Girls by Simone St. James right before a planned trip, I promised myself I'd read something else until his return.  As much as I tried to distract myself with a lighter, less nightmare-inducing novel, though, I couldn't do it!  Scary dreams be darned, I could not look away from this gripping story about ghosts and girls and their ghoulish secrets.  Atmospheric and eerie, The Broken Girls is a tense, absorbing novel that will keep you guessing throughout.  Even though the ending felt a little rushed and anticlimactic to me, overall, I enjoyed this haunting—but ultimately hopeful—story about righting past wrongs.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books by Carol Goodman, especially The Ghost Orchid and Arcadia Falls)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, blood/gore, mild sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Broken Girls from the generous folks at Penguin Random House.  Thank you!


  1. I’ve heard such good things about this one. I can’t wait to read it.

    1. It's good. Super tense and creepy. Don't be afraid to read it under the covers if needed ...

  2. Ooooooh! This one might be one that I'll like! I'm always on the look out for scary books, especially around Halloween.

    1. This would be a perfect Halloween read!

  3. Isn't Simone St. James a great author?

    1. This is the first book I've read by her, but I'm definitely going to check out her others even if they're not all that similar to this one. I like her writing style.

  4. How did we plan this for the same day? Don't think we've ever done that. Ha! And, yes, I understand that you couldn't put it down. It was very compelling. Good comparison with Carol Goodman. Not sure if I'll read her other books - think this was her first 'creepy' tale. However, if she writes another like this, I'm there. LOL

    1. Ha ha. I don't know. Penguin Random House wanted it reviewed within a specific time period and I told them a month ago I would review it today. What a funny coincidence!

  5. Yeah I am not sure I could read that while my husband was away!! Sounds good though. Great review!

    1. I shouldn't have. Every little noise in the house made me jump a mile. I'm surprised I was able to sleep at all!

  6. Boarding school novels always appeal to me and this one sounds pretty good.


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