The Broken Girls - Simone St. James
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is a dual time-line novel (2014/1950). In Barrons, Vermont at 3 a.m. Fiona Sheridan is back on Old Barrons Road near Idlewild Hall where her sister’s body was found twenty years ago. Everyone tells her it is time to move on, but Fiona has unanswered questions. Tim Christopher, her sister’s boyfriend, was convicted of the murder and is in prison serving his sentence. When Fiona finds out that Idlewild Hall has been purchased and is being renovated to turn it back into a girl’s boarding school, she decides to write (freelance journalist) an article about it. While touring the school with Anthony Eden, son of the new owner, a body of a teenage girl is discovered in the old well. Who is she and how did she end up there? Fiona dives into the past to discover what happened to this poor girl. If she happens to turn up information in her sister’s case, all the better.
In 1950 Idlewild Hall is a girl’s boarding school for troubled girls (too independent, rebellious, illegitimate, traumatized, unwanted). CeCe, Sonia, Katie and Roberta room together and, as they get to know each other, become close friends. The lessons are boring, the teachers are rigid, and the luxuries are few. The school is rumored to be haunted by Mary Hand and one room seems to be more sinister than the others. Then one of the girls disappears-never seen again. What is going on at Idlewild Hall? Will Fiona get the answers she seeks?
I had trouble wading through The Broken Girls. I believe the author had too many ideas and, instead of picking, she put them all into this one story (murder, 1800s ghost, modern killer, a girl from a concentration camp and so much more). I found the pace to be very slow which made the book seem twice as long. I found the book disjointed with abrupt transitions. It jumps around faster than a Mexican jumping bean. Fiona Sheridan was not a likeable main character. She came across as obsessed and unsympathetic (I kept hoping the killer would make her the next victim). Much of her sections are devoted to her endless questions and speculation (it was repetitious). I found the story from the 1950s to be more fascinating than the Fiona’s. The author could have done a book just on the four girls story (and kept Fiona out of it). There are a couple of interesting moments in the book, but I mostly found the story to be predictable (mystery readers will have no problem predicting how the book will turn out). I wanted to feel the suspense and the scare factor, but I did not. I do want to warn readers that there is foul language in the book. I realize I am in the minority regarding my feelings on The Broken Girls. That is the beauty of books. Every reader has a different perspective. If you want to see if The Broken Girls is for you, download a sample from your favorite retailer.