The Broken Girlsby Simone St. James Published 20 Mar 2018
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A 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" Reviews
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“Mary Hand, Mary Hand, dead and buried under land…
Faster, faster. Don’t let her catch you.
She’ll say she wants to be your friend…
Do not let her in again!”
I’m not usually one for paranormal/ghost stories, but when I read the description for “The Broken Girls” I was really intrigued. I’m thrilled to say that this was even better than I expected.
Barrons, Vermont - November 1950.
A young girl has just gotten off a bus. She has two choices. She can take the normal route or she can cut through the woods to get there faster. But cutting through the woods means leaving the safety of the main road. Suddenly she turns and sees a figure coming towards her. But how is this possible?
She was the only one who got off the bus….
Katie, Ce-Ce, Roberta and Sonia are roommates at Ildewild Hall, a boarding school for “troubled” girls. Over time they have become close friends. They bond over their painful life stories. They trust and depend on each other.
We are given insight into why each “broken” girl is at Idlewild though chapters from their perspective. We learn about their lives and what they’ve been through and about the mystery surrounding them all.
Fiona was seventeen at the time of her sister’s murder. Twenty years later, unanswered questions continue to plague her. Although a man was convicted for her murder and is serving his sentence in a maximum-security prison, he has always maintained his innocence.
And now Idlewild Hall is being restored. Why would someone bother re-building a place like Idlewild? Fiona decides to write about the restoration for the local paper. She has strange feelings whenever she is near the property and the old school. Is it possible that the rumors about Idlewild being haunted are true?
Then a shocking discover changes everything. Could there be a link between what happened all those years ago and Fiona's sister’s murder?
There are so many secrets surrounding Idlewild and Fiona is determined to find out what those secrets are. But could all of her investigating end up putting her in danger?
The story alternates between 1950 and 2014. The chapters in 2014 are told from Fiona’s point of view. The chapters in 1950 are from the point of view of the four roommates. Though it alternates and there are quite a few different perspectives, I thought it flowed easily back and forth between past and present.
“The Broken Girls” was a unique and impressive novel. While I did find the beginning of the novel a bit slow, it wasn’t long before I was completely caught up in the story. It was an engrossing read that really struck a chord with me. I ended up reading more than half of the book in just a few hours.
You can tell that the author has done her research; she brings everything together in an excellent way. Though some parts are dark and disturbing, I feel the author handled these difficult subjects with respect and sensitivity.
“The Broken Girls” was a captivating read that I really enjoyed. I’m looking forward to reading more from Simone St. James.
Thank you, Berkley Books for providing an advanced readers copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest review.
5 SHINY STARS, I would give a lot more if I Could.
Mary Hand Mary Hand, Dead and buried underland. She'll say she wants to be your friend. Do not let her in again.
The setting is in Vermont. There are rumors that the boarding school Idlewild Hall is haunted. This is a place where girls go who are troublemakers, illegitimate and too smart for their own good. Their parents rarely visit them. Four roommates are friends and they bond very well until one of them disappears.
Fiona Sheridan is a journalist. Twenty years ago her sister's body was found lying in the overgrown fields, near the ruins of Idlewood. Her sister's boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder. She keeps revisiting the events surrounding her sister's death. Fiona has a strong suspicion that the case isn't what it was made out to be. Fiona then finds out that Idlewild Hall is being restored and decides to write a story about it.
Shockingly she discovers that the renovations link to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past.
This is an awesome spooky ghost story plus a great mystery. It is so much more than your average ghost story. If you usually don't like ghost stories, I still think you would like this one. It is a Gothic suspense novel and I could just feel the Gothic atmosphere brewing. It is more of a mystery than horror. It didn't really scare me but the secrets were frightening but more suspenseful. It was also very chilling.
It hooked me in straight from the beginning and didn't let go until the very end. The suspense kept me turning the pages and kept me reading into the earl hours of the morning. The story goes back and forth from the past to the present. From 1950 to 2014, two stories merge into one. There are several twist and turns that gave me surprises that I didn't see coming with a great murder plot.
The book is very well written and is a character driven novel. I just loved some of the characters. I recommend this to those who like a Gothic suspense novel.
I got this arc on Edelweiss.
Hauntingly suspenseful read about a former boarding school for “troubled girls.”
There’s something sinister at work in Barrons, Vermont at the abandoned Idlewild Hall. Ghosts have been seen, bodies have been found, and secrets have been long buried. When a journalist begins digging into the dark, dismal history of Idlewild, she exposes a web of corruption and hidden crimes.
In the 1950’s four girls were roommates and the best of friends at Idlewild Hall, a boarding school for “troubled” girls. The girls are the closest of friends and rely on each other to survive living in the repressive, gloomy, world of Idlewild. When of them goes mysteriously missing, the school believes she has run away, but the friends believe that she was murdered.
Switch to 2014: When journalist Fiona Sheridan learns that Idlewild, which had been shut down and abandoned, is going to be restored she is determined to find out more, as Fiona has an inherent interest in Idlewild as it is the spot which her murdered sister’s body was found 20 years ago. The more and more Fiona digs up about Idlewild, the more she puts herself in danger.
The Broken Girls is an intelligent, well-written creepy, atmospheric read that I could not put down! There’s something about Simone St. James’ writing style that sucked me in--I honestly had to force myself to put this book down. The characters voices are compelling, and their stories equally interesting. I loved the eerie, gothic like atmosphere, and of course Mary Hand’s presence kept me on edge. There are some paranormal elements, which I normally would have rolled my eyes at, but they serve a purpose and really work in this book.
I cannot say enough good things about The Broken Girls! I might just have to go reread and experience it all over again!
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is a 2018 Berkley publication.
Now THIS is my kind of book!!
Set in Vermont, alternating between 1950 and 2014, this well rounded thriller, centers around a girl’s only school named Idlewood Hall. During the fifties, this school was where troubled girls were sent, and where a group of girls forge an unlikely and formidable friendship which would cause a rippling effect for decades to come.
Over the years, the abandoned school was nothing more than an eyesore, protecting its memories and ghosts from the outside world, its most recent claim to fame being the general location of where Fiona Sheridan’s sister was found dead over twenty years ago.
Now, in present day, 2014, someone has taken an interest in Idlewood, determined to restore the old boarding house, which only intensifies Fiona’s obsession over her sister’s death. She convinces her boss to allow her to do a story about the school's restoration for the magazine she works for. While she barely manages to conceal her ulterior motives, the restoration efforts inadvertently led to a shocking discovery, and sends her down a rabbit hole, as she searches, not only for peace of mind concerning her sister’s death, but for the answers to a decades old mystery.
This gloomy, atmospheric thriller enveloped me in its Gothic fog, keeping me utterly riveted and on the edge of my seat from the beginning to end.
The creepy aura surrounding Fiona’s investigation into her sister’s death is nail biting suspense at its finest. This is a crime drama, thriller, and chiller all rolled into one. While the haunting of Idlewood adds a deliciously spooky element to the story, what is truly haunting is the heavy toll that losing a daughter and sister had on Fiona and her family, as well as the ever present feeling of impending doom.
But, the mystery of the disappearance of one of Idlewood’s boarders during the fifties was a story that goes beyond the ghostly rumors. It is poignantly sad and infuriating tale, that slowly morphs into an inspirational and touching story of friendship and long overdue closure.
I have always been a sucker for a good ghost story, mainly because contrary to the creepy, spooky, chilling aspects of hauntings, more often than not, ghosts are quite often helpful, or asking for help from the living, to give them long sought after peace, which is a not at all frightening when you look at it from that angle. This story is no exception, but I have to tell you, this ghost story packs a powerful punch and is incredibly edgy!!
But, mostly, this story is about solving all the mysteries surrounding two very different types of crimes, with two entirely separate circumstances. The author manages to connect the past to the present fluidly, despite the stark differences in themes and urgency. While the location and Idlewood provide a physical link, it is really the power of familial love and the enduring bonds of friendship, with a little help from beyond, that brings everyone and everything together in the end.
This story is evenly paced, giving the well timed twists a great deal of power. It is very well written, and embodies everything I love about a good thriller. Overall, this was an immensely satisfying read.
Pulling out all the stars for this one! 5 stars!!
Idlewild was the boarding school of last resort, where parents stashed their embarrassments, their failures, and their recalcitrant girls. Hidden in the backwoods of Vermont, it had only 120 students: illegitimate daughters, first wives’ daughters, servants’ daughters, immigrant girls, girls who misbehaved…
The Broken Girls proved to be a breezy and exciting read in all of the best ways. The hooks were there, pulling me further and further into the story until I became one with it. Until the hours and pages flew by alike and I realized I’d finished it all in one sitting. Who isn’t intrigued by the thought of “throw away” girls from a time long ago? Simone St. James makes her own literary footsteps in shoes she fills well, for The Broken Girls is most definitely Ruth Ware meets Fiona Barton with an American Northeast twist.
If that line wasn’t enough to tell you exactly what to expect here, I’ll elaborate. This novel reminded me of an equal cross between and The Widow and The Lying Game from the very start. The writing style is very similar—fluid and paced so that the read flies by breezily, tinged with intrigue. Even the theme of camaraderie among boarding school girls—their mischief, their backstories, their own haunting pasts—investigated in present-day scenes by a character who also has skin in the game, is the same. Here, you can even cozy up to the same scenery: wide open fields ringed with thickets of trees and old dirt gravel roads of the past. These novels were all cut from the same cloth, though they all told their stories in a way of their own.
While so many thrillers suffer from too many ideas in the plot, The Broken Girls weaves together a handful of story lines with just the right recipe. A chase here, a haunt there—a thrilling journey to the end—all brought to a boil and served up heartily leaving me full and satisfied in the end. None of the story lines felt overpowering or underdeveloped; they all fit together hand in hand, seamlessly drawing me back and forth between two periods of time over sixty years apart. Because of this skillful flow, St. James’ Girls read at a quick pace, allowing me to immerse myself in the story without interruption. That’s half the battle with a thriller, right? I was most impressed with the handling of the ghost story here in this novel. It was brilliantly done, haunting me as it haunted those four girls—never overdone or melodramatic, relying on parlor tricks like flashing lights and other theatrics; this ghost was a leading lady all her own and deserving of the space she occupied with those pages.
As is sometimes a danger with thrillers, I will say that there were a few areas that were obviously formulaic, plucked straight out of the “thriller-with-a-villain” motif and those couple of sections in the novel made me cringe enough to warrant shaving off a star. BUT, the rest of St. James’ The Broken Girls was deftly handled and intricately woven in a way that made me want to come back for more. I highly recommend this novel for anyone in need of a cozy thriller and for absolutely anyone who has read and loved Ruth Ware or Fiona Barton, because these Broken Girls served up more twists than I’d expected and more intrigue than so many novels of the same genre, scoring an easy and strong 4 stars. ****
**Thanks to the publicity department at Berkley / Penguin Random House for reaching out to me to review this book!**
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I don't believe in ghosts in real life, but I absolutely believed in the ghost of Mary Hand haunting a girls' boarding school, even after it was shut down in 1979. The writing of Broken Girls is wonderful and unique.
The story is told during two diferent periods in history. In 2014, journalist Fiona Sheridan, daughter of a famous journalist, is still looking for more solid information on the murder of her sister twenty years earlier, even though Deb's boyfriend was convicted and has been imprisoned since her body was found in a field at Idlewood Hall in a remote part of Vermont.
In 1950, we get to meet four roommates, girls abanoned because they were born outside of marriage or they're orphans or their parents just didn't know how to deal with the challenges of raising a spirited daughter, especially at a time when we don't have the knowledge about mental health that we do now (and therefore it was shameful to not be sunny and agreeable at all times if you were female). I loved these four fifteen-year-old girls. When one of them goes missing, neither the police nor the teachers do much to investigate. She's a throwaway girl. Her friends, however, know that she was murdered because she'd never run away.
Fiona's search for the truth makes for an intriguing and enjoyable mystery. I really liked this book, which RELEASES MARCH 20, 2018.
Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.
For more of my reviews, please visit: http://www.theresaalan.net/blog