THE BROKEN GIRLS by Simone St. James {Review}

Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: March 20, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★

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 was an amazing book, combining many elements I love: mystery, ghost story, historical fiction, dual time periods, and crime drama. I loved it – yes, it was dark and unsettling, but I was glued to the pages.

The story alternates between the early 1950s and 2014 in a tiny Vermont town. In the past, four teenage girls attend a local boarding school for troubled girls called Idlewild Hall when one goes missing; in the present, a journalist named Fiona investigates the death of her sister whose body was found on Idlewild’s abandoned property two decades earlier. Fiona agrees to write an article on the restoration of Idlewild when it’s purchased by a mysterious buyer. During renovations, a shocking discovery pulls Fiona into the unsolved case of the missing girl. Will it also lead her to answers about her own sister’s death?

This was an atmospheric and creepy read, with some definite chilling moments. Like many Gothic novels, the house, Idlewild, was a haunted, complex character itself, and the tale of its resident ghost was heartbreaking. The mystery was complicated, and I enjoyed how the well-researched historical elements were woven into it. I love Simone St. James’ storytelling, and I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes a spooky story full of emotion and depth.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

CLOSER THAN YOU KNOW by Brad Parks {Review}

Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★¼

Disaster, Melanie Barrick was once told, is always closer than you know.

It was a lesson she learned the hard way growing up in the constant upheaval of foster care. But now that she’s survived into adulthood–with a loving husband, a steady job, and a beautiful baby boy named Alex–she thought that turmoil was behind her.

Until one Tuesday evening when she goes to pick up Alex from childcare only to discover he’s been removed by Social Services. And no one will say why. It’s a terrifying scenario for any parent, but doubly so for Melanie, who knows the unintended horrors of what everyone coldly calls “the system.”

Her nightmare mushrooms when she arrives home to learn her house has been raided by sheriff’s deputies, who have found enough cocaine to send Melanie to prison for years. The evidence against her is overwhelming, and if Melanie can’t prove her innocence, she’ll lose Alex forever.

Meanwhile, assistant commonwealth’s attorney Amy Kaye–who has been assigned Melanie’s case–has her own troubles. She’s been dogged by a cold case no one wants her to pursue: a serial rapist who has avoided detection by wearing a mask and whispering his commands. Over the years, he has victimized dozens of women.

Including Melanie. Yet now her attacker might be the key to her salvation . . . or her undoing.

Folks, this book made me a nervous wreck!! The protagonist Melanie Barrick is faced with a nightmare scenario: She goes pick up her infant son from daycare, only to be told he was taken away by Social Services, and no one will tell her why or where he is. Honestly, I don’t know how I would continue to function. Things get worse when she gets home to find the police have raided her home and found a HUGE dealer’s amount of cocaine hidden in the ceiling. Defending herself seems hopeless, and thoughts of being reunited with her baby are all that keep her going.

CLOSER THAN YOU KNOW was a great read, fast-paced and exciting, and I will forgive the nervous knot it put in my stomach. It wasn’t without some flaws though. There were a few things that just didn’t make sense (like why only Melanie was blamed for the hidden cocaine and not her husband too). I did figure out the culprit about half-way through, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment. I was still flipping pages as fast as I could to see if/how Melanie got out of her predicament. I could easily sympathize with Melanie, and I liked the prosecuting attorney, Amy Kaye, too. Both were smart, tough, and relatable. I’m looking forward to more from Brad Parks.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

THE LIAR’S GIRL by Catherine Ryan Howard {Audiobook Review}

Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★¼

Will Hurley was an attractive, charming, and impressive student at Dublin’s elite St. John’s College – and Ireland’s most prolific serial killer. Having stalked his five young victims, he drowned them in the muddy waters of the Grand Canal. Sentenced to life imprisonment when he was just 19, Will is locked away in the city’s Central Psychiatric Hospital.

Freshman Alison Smith moved to the Big Smoke to enroll in St. John’s and soon fell hard for Will Hurley. Her world bloomed…and then imploded when Liz, her best friend, became the latest victim of the Canal Killer – and the Canal Killer turned out to be the boy who’d been sleeping in her bed. Alison fled to the Netherlands and, in 10 years, has never once looked back.

When a young woman’s body is found in the Grand Canal, Garda detectives visit Will to see if he can assist them in solving what looks like a copycat killing. Instead, Will tells them he has something new to confess – but there’s only one person he’s prepared to confess it to.The last thing Alison wants is to be pulled back into the past she’s worked so hard to leave behind. Reluctantly, she returns to the city she hasn’t set foot in for more than a decade to face the man who murdered the woman she was supposed to become.

Only to discover that, until now, Will has left out the worst part of all.

Poor Alison Smith. She couldn’t wait to move to Dublin and attend St. John’s College with her best friend Liz, but her happiness was short-lived. Will, the charming boy Alison fell in love with freshman year, turned out to be a serial killer, and worse yet was that his last victim was Liz. A decade passes with Will locked up and Alison trying to forget that terrible time, when a copycat killer strikes. Will has new information to share that may help police, but the only person he’s willing to talk to is Alison.

THE LIAR’S GIRL is an absorbing slow-burn novel of suspense. I was easily wrapped up in the lives of the characters. The author has an engaging and descriptive writing style that makes the reader feel like part of the story. The mystery was constructed well and kept me guessing. I loved that final disturbing twist which brought everything together.

I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Alana Kerr Collins, with smaller parts by Alan Smyth and Gary Furlong. Ms. Collins’ performance of Alison was fitting with her character – not overly dramatic, yet emotional and expressive when the situation called for it. Alan Smyth narrated Catherine Ryan Howard’s previous book DISTRESS SIGNALS, and I loved, loved, loved his performance. Though his part was smaller in this book, he was just as wonderful. I’d listen to anything he narrates.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

★ Happy Blogoversary to me! Book of Secrets was launched on St. Patrick’s Day 2010. ★