Release date: March 20, 2018
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. . . .
It’s rare for me to enjoy a book that blurs the lines between genres, sometimes books that straddle two (or more) genres read kind of messy to me but when I can find an author that manages to blend several genres in a coherent and seamless manner, well, I’m thrilled! The Broken Girls was at it’s core a mystery but it also had historical elements and just enough of the supernatural to be creepy yet plausible.
This is told in dual timelines, you have Fiona in 2014 who is a journalist with painful ties to Idelwild Hall then it also flips back to 1950 when Idelwild Hall was a school for wayward girls and you hear from four friends and roommates. Initially it had a somewhat slower start, but around the halfway point things picked up for me and I was hooked. Fiona and her backstory did reel me in early on but it took me a bit longer to become invested in the four girls, but once I was in, I was all in. Their individual stories were terribly sad and sometimes tragic but their time together at Idelwild Hall was disturbing and at times shocking.
This was an eerily atmospheric read, both narratives are set in Vermont and St. James did an amazing job at creating a hauntingly beautiful setting. The sections in the past were downright scary at times but the more recent chapters were also freaky as the school was long ago abandoned and derelict. Add in a purported ghost named Mary Hand and a handful of cold cases begging to be solved and you have the perfect combination of intrigue and fear. This was a really solid read for me from a talented writer, if you don’t mind a small dose of the supernatural in your mysteries then you should check this one out!
The Broken Girls in three words: Creepy, Chilling and Captivating.
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.