MINM Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Well-written, intricately plotted, and thoroughly absorbing, The Broken Girls by Canadian author Simone St. James provides readers with "the best of both worlds": a gothic, historical ghost story set at a "haunted" boarding school for girls in Vermont, and a contemporary mystery featuring a journalist with a connection to that same school, who begins her own investigation into the long-abandoned school's change of ownership and proposed renovation, only to discover more than she bargained for about Idlewild Hall's shadowy past.

The format of these two, main, alternating timelines, often changing chapter to chapter, creates more of a slow-burning pace of steadily creeping tension and unease as the book's protagonist searches for the truth. Ms. St. James has a great ear for dialogue, and the work has a very personal feeling about it. This compelling story leaves the reader with a profound message: injustices of the past will never stay buried.

Do you remember sitting around a campfire in the darkness, listening to a ghost story, and being absolutely rapt? Or strangely enjoying that chill up the spine that one can experience in a cemetery, when you are the only living being around?  If so, pour yourself a piping hot "cuppa", and curl up under the covers with this eerie, chilling, atmospheric tale!

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James book cover image.jpg

Publisher's Blurb:

The "clever and wonderfully chilling" (Fiona Barton) suspense novel from the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare...

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.

Violence: Mild-to-Moderate

Profanity: Mild-to-Moderate

Sexual Content: Mild-to-Moderate

Explicit Language: None

Animal Cruelty: None

Thrilling Action: Mild-to-Moderate

Red Herrings: Moderate

Twists and Turns: Moderate

Suspense: Moderate

Plot Development: High

Character Development: Moderate-to-High

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

Best for Crime Fiction Readers:

  • Who enjoy mysteries and crime fiction featuring an amateur detective, in this instance, an investigative journalist.
  • Who appreciate crime fiction stories highlighting female bonding and loyalty.
  • Who enjoy reading about gothic settings, in general, and boarding schools, in particular.
  • Who don't mind, or enjoy, just a touch of romance in their crime fiction.
  • Who don't mind, or enjoy, mysteries and crime fiction with otherworldly and paranormal elements.
  • Who appreciate horror-influenced imagery in their crime fiction. The imagery in The Broken Girls is neither gory, nor overly frightening.
  • Who appreciate historical mysteries and crime fiction. While not strictly a historical mystery, The Broken Girls does spend considerable time exploring events set in the past.

MINM Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Do you enjoy spooky ghost stories? 

Have you read other mysteries with gothic settings and/or ghosts in the tale that you'd like to recommend?

Mystery in Minutes would love to hear from you in the comments below!