Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: She’d always known the monsters were real.
In the 1950’s there was a school for girls in Vermont called Idlewild Hall. It was a place for the troublesome, the illegitimate, the unwanted. Rumored to be haunted, four girls bond over shared fears and secrets, until one of them disappeared.
Fiona Sheridan knows what it is to have lost. Having lost her sister to a murderer, her mother to cancer, and her father to his grief, she still struggles to understand exactly where and when it all went wrong. When she hears Idlewild Hall is being restored by, the place where her sister’s body was discovered, Fiona is determined to find out who they are and why.
Where a shocking discovery is made during the renovations, it links to young women together across time and opens to door to secrets someone will kill to keep hidden.
The Broken Girls is my first time reading Simone St. James but certainly not my last. Her clever prose and strong voice weave a potent atmospheric charm around the reader as she takes us on an adventure brimming with mystery, suspense, a hint of romance, and a bittersweet ghost story. Alternating between the past and present, St.James uses a multitude of voices that speak of love, family, friendship, hope, and a dogged determination to discover the truth. The menacing nature of the school and the stories told by those who lived there only intensifies your feelings of fear and distrust the further you are drawn into the story.
Fiona Sheridan, a freelance journalist, lost her older sister years ago. Supposedly murdered by her boyfriend who was tried and convicted for it, Fiona always felt there was something strange about the whole situation and has never quite let it go. When a local legend-Idlewild Hall-is slated for restoration and possibly reopening, Fiona can’t help but feel this may be what she needs to finally lay her sister to rest. When a young woman’s body is discovered yet again on the grounds, Fiona begins to dig into the school’s background, With the reluctant help of her cop boyfriend and her famous journalistic father, and discovers the history of four girls who lives there; one whose life was tragically cut short.
Fiona is a mystery reader’s dream heroine. Intelligent, honest, straightforward, and determined. Her narrative flows effortlessly and I enjoyed watching her investigational methods as she boldly strides into the unknown, systematically hacking away at the various blockades thrown up in her path while also reestablishing her relationship with her father. Her grief over her sister’s death is an excuse that many use to detour her but Fiona’s determination is a sight to behold, especially once she discovers another young woman whose death is suspicious. I liked that St. James doesn’t attempt to martyr or canonize Fiona. She isn’t perfect and makes mistakes throughout the story. It’s her honesty and passion that compels your sympathy. I found it interesting that it’s death that officially wakes Fiona up to what is happening around her and breathes “life” back into her.
St. James use of alternating chapters to tell us the history of Idlewild Hall through the eyes of those who lived there is a flawless in its application. These girls effortlessly drew me in and I couldn’t help but see the parallels between the #metoo movement and the reasons behind the school’s existence. Four girls, each sent to this boarding school through no fault of their own. Throughout time, women have been made the scapegoat for the crimes of men. Our very existence temps boys and men to do things and we are to blame for their weakness. Kat sent to Idlewild Hall after being sexually assaulted. CeCe is the product of an affair between a married man and his housekeeper. Rebecca had a small nervous breakdown when she witnesses a, and Sophia is the victim of WWII. I loved the strength and determination of these girls-especially Kat. Told is hushed voices, we begin to see a pattern of abuse and neglect from the school, the families of the girls, and the town itself. Interwoven into these stories is a malignant force-a ghost-who seems to punish those at the school for actions unknown.
As we drawn closer to the end, we begin to see the faint lines between the past and present grow brighter and stronger. Clues continue to reveal themselves, helping Fiona and the reader understand exactly what happened…and why. St. James wraps everything up in a stunning finale that I found astonishing in revelation yet perfect overall. Various secondary charters help to soften any rough edges and propel the story along through subplots and action though the story definitely belongs to Fiona and the four girls of Idlewild Hall. My only complaint is it ended. I wanted to spend much more time with Fiona and the girls. I rather hope St. James thinks about making Fiona a recurring character in the future. A sort of cold case/ghost hunting journalist nee detective. *crosses fingers*
Simone St. James is a haunting voice in thrilling supernatural mysteries and well worth reading for all fans of this genre.