The Broken Girls

336p. Berkley. Mar. 2018. Tr $26. ISBN 9780451476203.
Fiona, a journalist, looks into the closed case of her sister's murder at a Vermont school for troubled girls and unintentionally stirs up terrifying secrets of the past. Told in the alternating voices of Fiona in 2014 and four teenage girls in 1950, the book follows events that culminate in two violent murders. Twenty years ago, Fiona's older sister Deb was discovered dead on the grounds of Idlewild, a dilapidated boarding school. Deb's boyfriend was arrested and incarcerated for her murder, but grief-stricken Fiona had lingering doubts about his guilt. Now, someone plans to reopen the former school in spite of its tragic history and rumored ghost, so Fiona uses the opportunity to investigate. After construction on Idlewild reveals a skeleton, Fiona's focus centers on the two cases, her complicated relationship with her policeman boyfriend, and the maddening spirit that whispers the victims' darkest secrets. St. James wastes no words in this chilling page-turner. Vivid, haunting descriptions and spare, purposeful dialogue put readers right in the middle of the dusty classrooms where schoolgirls endured unspeakable abuse and a ghostly voice murmurs, "Hold still." Well-crafted characters and scenes highlight the differences between gender expectations of the past and today.
VERDICT Give this frightening suspense novel to lovers of thrillers. Perfect for fans of gripping crime drama and/or gothic stories.

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