Book Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

THE BROKEN GIRLS by Simone St. James
Publisher: BERKLEY
Pub. Date: 03/20/2018
Pages: 336
Format: Electronic (Publisher)

Goodreads Summary:

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 is a haunting thriller set in rural Vermont. The novel is split between two time periods — 1950 and 2014 — and surrounds the mysterious boarding school, Idlewild Hall. In the 50s, we meet a group of teens labeled as troublemakers, disturbed and the illegitimate. The girls may be dealing with some of these issues but they’re also strong, intelligent, curious and protective of their friendship. Katie, CeCe, Roberta, and Sonia bond through their shared struggles at Idlewild and their personal home life experiences. Readers see the world through each of the girls’ eyes via their own chapters. We also learn that one of the girls goes missing. Is it at the hands of the legendary ghost, Mary Hand, who haunts the school? Is the girl a runaway?

In 2014, we meet Fiona Sheridan, a freelance culture writer obsessed with the events surrounding her sister’s death on the grounds of Idlewild. She, too, is a strong character, fiercely protective of her sister’s memory. As a writer, Fiona feels she’s always trying to live up to her famous father, a retired journalist. She’s also dating, Jamie, one of the town’s police officers. Journalists and police, usually, don’t mix. Not to mention, Fiona and Jamie are, currently, dealing with a rocky relationship. When Fiona discovers that Idlewild has been sold to an unknown buyer, her investigative instincts kick in. Who would want to purchase a long-abandoned school? Is it someone who attended Idlewild?

THE BROKEN GIRLS is my kind of mystery. I love eerie settings, boarding schools, and the 1950s. This is the first time I’ve read a novel by St. James. She does a terrific job of creating an atmosphere of fear and unease. Not only because of the ghost of Mary Hand but the missing student and Fiona’s investigation into the buyer of the school. And someone definitely doesn’t want Fiona digging into the past.

It’s easy to see why THE BROKEN GIRLS was chosen as “March 2018 Library Reads Selection”. If you feel this might be a good read for Halloween, don’t wait! Dive into the novel now. THE BROKEN GIRLS kept me up late at night turning the pages to find out what happened next. The tight-knit relationship between Katie, CeCe, Roberta, and Sonia is the heart of the novel. I absolutely LOVE their backstories and adventures at school. The novel is full of great twists and turns. I also enjoyed Fiona’s relationship with her father. Although, I wished I’d known a little bit more about why he was so revered and spoken of in awe by members of the community.

St. James also does a fantastic job of weaving together the different stories of THE BROKEN GIRLS. I realize this is a stand-alone, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Fiona solve another case…along with the help of some trusty friends. Who are they? You’ll have to read THE BROKEN GIRLS to find out!

Looking forward to the next book from St. James, but in the meantime, I’m happy to check out her backlist.


Have you read THE BROKEN GIRLS? If so, what did you think?

About the Author

Simone St. James is the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare, which won two RITA awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. She wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school, and spent twenty years behind the scenes in the television business before leaving to write full-time. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and a spoiled cat.

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