After the Sun Down Motel, I went in search of Simone St. James’s other books. The Broken Girls had the best reviews, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to read about teenage girls whose families had abandoned them. I’m glad I checked it out! It wasn’t quite as breathtaking as the Sun Down Motel, but it is really good.
2014: Twenty years ago, Fiona’s older sister, Deb, was murdered by her boyfriend and her body dumped on the grounds of a former boarding school named Idlewild Hall. Even though Deb’s murderer was caught and sent to prison, Fiona is haunted by unanswered questions and keeps returning to Idlewild to look for answers. After learning that Idlewild is being renovated so it can re-open, Fiona convinces her editor and the new owner to let her write an article about the school. Fiona is on the grounds when the body of a long-dead teenage girl is found during the renovations. She decides she must discover who the girl was and who murdered her.
1950: Idlewild Hall is where parents send their teenage daughters they want to hide; the ones who are promiscuous, illegitimate, or mentally ill. The girls are punished for the slightest infractions. Families rarely visit, and visits home are even more rare. As if that weren’t enough, the school is haunted by a woman named Mary Hand. She whispers the girls’ darkest secrets. Everyone is scared. But in this pressure-cooker, four roommates become best friends. Katie, Sonia, Roberta, and Cece tell each other their secrets and share their hopes for the future. They try to protect one another.
The Broken Girls is hard for me to review because it’s similar to Sun Down Motel, but I liked Sun Down Motel more. The two are similar in that there are ghosts, murder, women as victims and trying not to be victims, and murdered family members. I loved the 1950s part of the story, but 2014 really only interested me in how it related to 1950. I’m not sure why that is, Fiona was definitely a sympathetic character, I just didn’t find her story as interesting as Katie, Sonia, Roberta, and Cece’s stories. Mary Hand was terrifying and definitely added to the oppressive atmosphere of Idlewild Hall.
If you like mysteries and like being scared, check it out.