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Review: The Broken Girls

The Broken Girls - Simone St. James

I received a copy from Netgalley.


I love boarding school mysteries. Especially ones where there is a mix of past and present. The mystery of this one was what caught my interest in the synopsis. A journalist who can’t get over the murder of her older sister at an exclusive boarding school is still haunted by the brutal crime. Still stalking the grounds of the now closed school.


And discovers a body in a well. On the same grounds. To make things worse…the school is reopening.


The present chapters are the main character Fiona investigating, still troubled by her sister’s death, despite the fact that the culprit was caught and imprisoned and remains in prison. She seems to think there was something more to it. Despite being told to let it go. Of course, she won’t. Her police officer boyfriend seems to be slowly losing patience with her obsessiveness into this murder.


The past chapters tell the stories of a group of girls who all attended the boarding school in the 1950s. The school was a stowaway place for unwanted girls – from a mix of poor families and wealthy ones with secret daughters they wanted to keep hidden. The teachers were all cruel, the rules were strict, and there were frightening stories of a ghost haunting the grounds and the buildings. There was at atmosphere of mystery, gloom and unpleasantness. The girls in one dorm all around the same age, were all very different yet managed to bond and eventually share secrets.


One of them disappears.


Fast forward to modern times and Fiona’s investigation. She’s a journalist and convinces her boss to let her write a story on the upcoming revival and reopening of the school, allowing her more freedom to dig into the events surrounding her sister’s death and subsequently the discovery of the dead girl in the well.


To be perfectly honest I really didn’t care much about Fiona or her side of the story. She was likeable enough, but everything felt just a bit bland and cardboard cut-out. She reminded me of the same sort of journalist I’ve seen in TV movies – strong willed and independent, smart in some circumstances but irritating in others. Obsessive where she doesn’t need to be which of course leads to discovering secrets that dangerous people want to keep hidden and will go to any lengths to make sure things stay that way.


What really interested me was the 1950s story of the girls at the school, their histories and secrets and how they came together, the mystery when one of them disappeared. There were no obvious suspects which didn’t help matters. And the body went undiscovered for so many years.  The more Fiona digs in the more unanswered questions she finds. What leads to the truth is was really surprising.


There was a good sense of atmosphere and mystery, and the plot was fairly fast paced and made for a pretty good page turner. The writing was good, and made the story flow really well and easy to picture and disappear into the narrative. While I’ve already said I didn’t care for the main character, I still really enjoyed the book. I always find it a mark of a really good book when I don’t like half the characters but still really enjoy the story. I would definitely pick up something else by the same author.


Thank you to Netgalley and Headline for approving my request to view the title.