I’m not going to compare this to The Sun-Down Motel, which is the only other book of hers I’ve read, because they are very different books, which I wasn’t expecting because of their seeming similarities (dual timelines, ghosts, murder). And on its own, I enjoyed listening to this book very much. (Rebecca Lowman does a good job with the narration, although her male performances sometimes slip into silliness.)
The two timelines are:
Vermont, 1950, at the boarding school of Idlewind, a school for girls who are “troubled”, four roommates stick together to make it through the grind of living and going to school there, in a place with little compassion for its students, and where everyone tacitly acknowledges that a ghost lives among them.
Vermont, 2014, Fiona Sheridan can’t get past the murder of her sister twenty years before, and in the course of digging up old secrets about that investigation, she stumbles upon the long-dead body of a young girl on the grounds of Idlewild.
I really liked Fiona as a protagonist, and I liked the way that the author handled her character, refusing to let her fall into cliched thriller tropes, instead letting her act like a real human being, not a cog in a twist-machine. I also liked the four girls back in 1950, especially when it comes to the end and both timelines sort of converge (this is not a spoiler, of course you know they are going to). The way it was structured, it gave me that great feeling of completeness you get from books only sometimes. I also didn’t predict the outcome of either mystery, although to be fair, the author did cheat a bit, because there really wasn’t a way for you to figure either of them out ahead of time. The narrative does make you more of a passenger than a lot of mystery stories do, where you have all the clues to figure things out.
So, I liked this one, but it’s not a favorite or anything, and nothing really about it hit me too hard. Mostly, I’m curious to dig into Simone St. James’s backlist, and am very excited about her forthcoming book in March, The Book of Cold Cases.