The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

First, what a great author name.  Second, she was introduced to me by a fellow Mystery Writer of America member (and instructor at the Cape Cod Writer’s Conference) Dale Phillips.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up her first book, “The Haunting of Maddy Clare”, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Not one for ghost stories, her books take the ghosts and gothic feeling of early England (and now America) and weave it into stories that follow a more tradition mystery.  I was hooked!

So how lucky was I when I got a copy of her newest/next book (out March 2018) from Berkley/Net Galley.

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The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

I couldn’t put this one down.  In fact, I stayed up way past my bedtime two nights in a row to finish it off!  Set in 1950 and 2014 Vermont, the story centers on a “school” for wayward young women (including troublemakers and illegitimate children of rich people) called Idlewild Hall.  In 1950, it follows four roommates and their experiences with the ghost of Mary Hand.

In 2014, Fiona Sheridan is looking for answers in her sister’s murder years before.  While someone was arrested, she can’t get the circumstances out of her mind.  It doesn’t help that she’s dating the former police chief’s son as well.  When Idlewild Hall is purchased and considered for restoration, she falls into investigating the mysterious murder of a young woman found on the property, much like her sister was.

Mary Hand’s ghost is ever present, and draws the two time periods together.  The climax at the end was twisty enough that I didn’t really see it coming.  The book also touches on a young refugee child who was at Ravensbrück Concetration Camp.  I admit, I didn’t know much about the history, and the book does a good job in showing the history as part of the story, but also educating the reader at the same time.

These types of “ghost” stories I love.  Tinged with mystery, and while the ghosts are ever present, there is usually a more mundane reason for the murder.  And it’s almost always at a living breathing person’s hand.

I can’t wait to continue reading more of Simone St. James work!

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