An intriguing story about a haunted boarding school for girls in Vermont and how its ghostly legacy remains in tact long after the closing and abandonment of the facility. Parallel story lines, one historical and one current, seemingly have only one common element - the haunted school. The inevitable convergence of these tales is both exciting and satisfying and kept this reader up well past bedtime with the excuse of, "Just one more page, and THEN I'll put it down." I didn't willingly put it down until I closed the back cover.
Part ghost story, part mystery, part thriller. This was a great read!
This is Simone St. James's first foray into writing a thriller type novel, and I eagerly look forward to her future books. I like this book, especially the horror aspect of it, which she does so well in her other books. The only thing I wished for was for more explanation about certain aspects of the story, especially Mary Hand and Fiona herself. The relationship between Fiona and Jamie also felt very unresolved, and I don't think this is a series, so it's a shame to not get more closure. I liked this book well enough, but it wasn't as well done as her previous books. I still love Simone St. James as a writer, and I'll be gobbling up whatever she publishes next.
Simone St. James has officially reset the bar of the boarding school murder mysteries subgenre and books with "Girl" in the title with her latest: The Broken Girls. She's given every character a little, but important piece of the puzzle that ultimately, when put together, solve multiple mysteries. Protagonist Fiona's sister was murdered on the grounds of Idlewild, a creepy, dark, and gated boarding school in the middle of nowhere, Vermont. But she wasn't the first to die or be presumed dead there; when Fiona finds out someone wants to restore it, she inserts herself into the lives of Margaret and Anthony Eden, the newest owners of the property. Fiona realizes that her sister's story is only a small part of the history of this haunted school, but comes to know much much more. Thoroughly creepy and intriguing, The Broken Girls will no doubt keep you reading until all hours of the night!
What makes a story? There are several answers to this question. When I read The Broken Girls, several things came to me. Most importantly truth in storytelling and how an author pulls it off. I am all for character development, plot driven stories. They are vital and this story has that but what about truth? Truth in human emotions. Truth in exploring one’s past. Truth in what haunts us. I can honestly say that St. James is an author to follow in these attributes of well-drawn stories. She really connects you to the characters and their story. That is truth. Each character has their own struggles and it brings the plot together in a delicious package of mystery, friendships heartache and meaningful human connections.
I was also delighted to feel a bit creeped out by the small town and the boarding school. The author makes you want to explore the ruins of Idlewild Hall and its past even further. I could easily read another story about the characters and location. Meaning, I didn’t want this story to end!
I can’t really pinpoint which characters stood out to me the most. They were all strong and interesting in this story and I sympathized with them all.
I really like the premise of a journalist who goes to no end to reveal the mystery surrounding her sister’s death and how the present day connects to the past in more than just one way.
I have to say that I feel sorry for the readers who have to wait to read this story when its published. The Broken Girls is truly an amazing story that has captivated me to no end and Simone St. James is my new favorite author! A must read.
I have rated this book five stars!
I obtained a copy of this book from the publishers through NetGalley.
Stephanie M. Hopkins
I would like to thank Simone St. James, Berkley/Penguin Random House, and NetGalley for allowing me to read an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Idlewild Hall is a girls’ boarding school where the illegitimate, the mentally ill, and the troublemakers are swept under the rug. In 1950, four girls band together to survive the cold, dreadful place—and the ghost that uses their darkest secrets against them.
In 2014, Fiona Sheridan still can’t stop thinking about her sister’s murder. When construction begins on Idlewild, the place where Deb’s body had been found, Fiona decides to write a piece on the restoration. She’s on the premises, interviewing the landowner, when the crew makes a shocking discovery… And soon Fiona finds herself digging up the past to uncover the present.
Getting to read this book so early was like a dozen Christmases rolled into one. Then I realized it’ll be just that much longer until I can read the next one. Guess I’ll be rereading her other books in the meantime. A real hardship, that.
This is a slight departure from St. James’ usual tale, mostly in setting. Her novels to date have been set in WWI-era England, gothic ghost stories with plots rooted in the war and a heroine who has to solve a murder mystery with the aid of a traumatized ex-soldier hero. In contrast, The Broken Girls is set in northern Vermont in America, one storyline in 1950, the other in 2014. There’s a ghost story and a murder mystery with roots in WWII that the heroine has to solve. The hero, a cop who I don’t believe was ever a soldier, isn’t all that helpful.
You’re immediately presented with the mystery in the prologue. I stayed up until three am, unable to take my eyes from the page for more than a minute. For the first two-thirds, I gathered puzzle pieces and tried to keep them organized, frustrated when none of them fit together. Then, precisely when St. James wanted me to, I finally began to put the pieces together and form a clearer picture. I enjoy a narrative that challenges my wits, and I value an author who trusts me to be intelligent enough to understand what’s going on without having to stop and explain things to me.
This review may be a bit superficial; I don’t dare include any spoilers. It’s one thing to reveal details a few days before release, it’s another to do it six months in advance. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s anticipation.
This was much freakier than her last book, Lost Among the Living (though that remains my favorite because Alex is a force of nature.) In LAL, the horror takes a back seat—way back, like the third row in an SUV—and the characters drive the story. Here, the characters are driving the story, but the creepy horror is right there in the passenger seat…staring… *shudders* Now I’m imagining being stuck in a car with Mary Hand. Yep, I’ll be sleeping with the light on again tonight. I think I’ll send St. James my energy bill.
Fiona was a great character, both vulnerable and strong. She had virtues and flaws—her determination falling under both categories—and she was very relatable. She had crappy eating habits, she exercised if she felt like it, and she wasn’t any kind of homemaker. I loved that she was bad at “the girlfriend thing.” Not that she cheated or anything immoral, she just liked to keep things casual and didn’t need to be romanced. She wasn’t at all needy and seemed reluctant to become attached to anything—or anyone.
If there was one thing I didn’t care for, it was Jamie, Fiona’s boyfriend. He didn’t begin to fill Alex’s shoes. I found him confusing and somewhat useless. In the first half, I was certain that he loved Fiona and was patiently waiting for her to be ready to become more committed, more involved in each other’s lives. When he took her face in his hands and kissed her, begging her to come to dinner with his parents, my heart melted. But then she and his father argue, and it didn’t seem like Jamie gave her an inch of slack. He got mad at her for not “getting along,” like she was an incorrigibly discourteous child. I wanted to smack him and scream, “You gutless company man! Grow some balls and do the right thing!” And after that, there was little that was endearing or heart-melting about him. So I guess he didn’t love her, or he wouldn’t have driven away.
I didn’t like the Idlewild girls as much as I liked Fiona, but then I didn’t relate to them as much. Nevertheless, I sympathized with them and was happy when they got the answers they’d spent their entire adult lives looking for. Likewise with Malcolm, Fiona’s dad.
It got a teensy bit annoying switching back and forth from past to present. I liked Fiona and wanted to stick with her, but the chapters in the past were important, and they were deliberately positioned to provide new information just before you needed to know it. The story was well-structured, in my opinion, and the pace was steady. Oh, and this is funny—in my head I read the book with a British accent. The exposition, the dialogue, all of it. I don’t know why; maybe I’ve listened to the audio versions of her other books too often, but somehow a British accent seemed to suit her writing. I tried forcing an American one, but it wouldn’t stick.
Overall…I wish St. James wrote faster.
Scratch that. I won’t sacrifice quality for quantity.
Overall, The Broken Girls is a spooky, intelligent, character-driven thriller that’ll keep you up at night.
This was not the normal type of book I read, as I don't read paranormal or ghost books. What drew me to this one was that it was advertised to be a thriller. Yes, there was a ghost aspect but it was not the focal point of the plot, though was a focal point of the story. I enjoyed this one and would never have figured out the mysterious death of Sonia or its connection to the death of Deb. Fiona as the main narrator was a likeable character who has walls around her emotions since her sister was found murdered 20 years ago. She obsesses over it and has a feeling that there is more to the death than ever was revealed. What she uncovers is pretty surprising and sad to think it all could have been avoided. This one will keep you turning the pages to find out what in the world happened and how the alternating chapters intersect.
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is one of those rare spooky ghost stories that caused me to take reading breaks because of the tension.
A story told in two time frames; a boarding school story; a ghost story; a murder mystery--The Broken Girls truly gave me chills.
In 1950 Vermont, a boarding school for recalcitrant girls (dumped there because they are unwanted or hard to manage) has been haunted since its inception. The legends, true and/or exaggerated, have been passed down through the decades both orally and through messages in the school's textbooks. Mary Hand knows--and the generations of girls who have attended Idlewild Hall are all affected by the truths she reveals.
In 2014, a journalist haunted by the murder of her sister is shocked and disturbed that someone wants to restore Idlewild Hall. She decides to write a story about the school, and that story leads to more mystery and danger.
Although I am often drawn to ghost stories, most books fail to satisfy or frighten me. While reading The Broken Girls, I was able to completely suspend disbelief.
Read in August; blog review scheduled for
NetGalley/Berkley Publishing Group
Mystery/Suspense/Supernatural. March 20, 2018. Print length: 336 pages.
Superb Gothic Suspense - Highly Recommended
Simone St. James’ latest novel is indeed about the broken. The abandoned Vermont girls school where the book is set is a crumbling echo chamber, an ominous place rumored to be haunted. Fiona Sheridan, the freelance journalist writing a story about Idlewild’s renovation, is in no better shape. After police discover her sister’s body on school grounds in the 1990s, Fiona spends the next 20 years grieving. Then there are the four girls who attended Idlewild in the fifties, one of whom vanishes and leaves only her suitcase behind. A beautiful 15-year-old whose parents send her away after a boy tries to rape her. An illegitimate daughter no one wants. An athlete whose uncle’s PTSD causes her to stop speaking. A Holocaust survivor who has no one besides her friends. Last but by no means least, there is the original “broken girl,” a ghost clad all in black who shows people what they least want to see.
As the novel unfolds Fiona’s research leads her to discover secrets not only about the girl who was murdered in 1950, but about her sister’s death as well. Told from alternating viewpoints that shift between 1950 and 2014, "The Broken Girls" is a gothic page-turner that I could not put down (there is even a scene reminiscent of one in "Wuthering Heights," my all-time favorite book). The plot is extremely well done and the Idlewild girls were compellingly believable. After their roommate disappears, the remaining three friends learn the most important “lesson” of all: nobody really cares what happens to a broken girl. Or at least no one but another damaged girl haunted by death. Not surprisingly, Fiona’s efforts to solve both cases put in her danger—with both earthly and supernatural forces. What does it take to fix the broken--or is that even possible? Those are two secrets I'm not going to reveal.
"The Broken Girls" is the first Simone St. James novel I’ve read so I don’t know if all her books are this good. What I do know is that if you’re looking for a riveting ghost story that will keep you up until you finish it, this is the book for you.
Much thanks to Berkley Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
This book was sooooo good! I loved it. There was a little bit of everything: mystery, intrigue, romance, historical fiction, ghosts, suspense and plot twists. ALL of that in one book! I have never read a book by this author but I will definitely read more. Fiona was a great character, smart, pretty, realistic and determined to find her sister's killer. She did an awesome job uncovering the mystery surrounding her sister's death that happened 20 years prior. I loved her boyfriend Jessie, a cop, who wanted to believe in her so much and was totally conflicted between the police force and his retired police chief father. The is a GREAT story intertwining the past and present so closely--I could not put it down and had to finish it! Highly recommend this one!! Fabulous plot, characters and writing.
No one writes a ghost story like Simone St. James.
I have loved each of her previous four books, which were set in the post World War I era. The Broken Girls finds itself alternating between various time periods--the common thread being a terrifying ghost who has haunted a girls boarding school since its inception. The strands are brought together in the present by a journalist whose life has been overshadowed by the murder of her sister in the 1990s. Abandoned Idlewild Hall is about to be renovated and reopened, prompting Fiona to investigate the death of her sister Deb whose body was dumped on the campus. Her research not only brings her in contact with the restless spirit who has haunted generations of girls at Idlewild but also with the living whose secrets are even more frightening. St. James expertly weaves characters and events from the past and present into a riveting tapestry, reminding the reader that everyone, the living and the dead, is broken in some way.
Full Disclosure--Net Gallery and the publisher provided me with a digital ARC of this book. This is my honest revie
Simone St. James has mastered the art of ghostly suspense. Chills run up and down and you can't wait to turn the next page. But The Lost Girls is so much more than a ghost story. Set in Vermont in the 50's and 2014 the story starts at Idlewild, a school for girls sent by parents who want to forget them. It's a terribly uncaring place where four girls become close friends watching out for each other, until one of them is killed. A nasty spirit remains on the grounds who haunts the school grounds in the 50s and in present day as well. Fiona's sister was murdered on the grounds in the 70s, and in 2014 Fiona is still haunted by what happened. Someone new has just bought the decrepit grounds and plans to restore and reopen the school. Past, present and future combine to solve three murders and finally bring the truth to light I highly recommend.
Following two different timelines, 1950 and 2014, this book explores the lives that have been affected by Idlewild Hall, a massive creepy old girl's boarding school that housed "troubled " girls from the early twentieth century until its closure in 1979. In 1950, four roommates at the school try to cope with both the coldness of the institution they've been imprisoned in and the schools ghost, Mary Hand, who appears to all of them. In 2014, Fiona Sheridan is still mourning her sister, murdered and dumped on the grounds of the abandoned school twenty years earlier. Now the abandoned school has been purchased with plans for it to reopen as a girl's boarding school. But during the construction work, a body is found. The body of one of the girls from 1950. As Fiona investigates she must unravel the threads that link her sister's death to that of both Sonia and the ghost of Mary Hand. This is a fantastic, impossible to put down ghost story. Hands down my favorite read of the summer