The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken Girls

Simone St. James

"Clever and wonderfully chilling. It held me hostage in a very modern ghost story until the early hours."-- Fiona Barton, New York Times bestselling author of The Widow

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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...

Advance Galley Reviews

I love crime fiction and to top off the eerie, suspense of this setting and plot, hauntings and ghosts are intermingled in. They become not only an added complement, but a part of the mystery. This story might have started a bit slow as you get to know the characters, but after you become familiar with both the past and the present you take up a role alongside the journalist as she discovers a past that has not yet been put to rest. She has personal involvement with the past, which makes you question if she's leading with her heart or mind. In some instances she makes you second guess her conclusions and I realized it was up to me to solve this on my own. The build up was captivating and remained invigoratingly never slowing down till the epilogue as the mystery grew then unraveled. Four out of five stars. Exciting, fun, mysterious read.

I gave this book 3 stars. I'm not a fan of paranormal aspects. I felt like this book couldn't hold my attention as well as other thrillers.

4 stars I am not usually a fan of ghost stories, per say, but I do love a really well done mystery with a little bit of a paranormal element. Some of my favorite books have just a little bit of that supernatural element (Thirteenth Tale, most anything by Kate Morton) that really just makes you question everything. First and foremost, The Broken Girls is just a really, really well told story with mystery, suspense and yes, a ghost. And yes, I admit, I am also a sucker for a mystery inside a mystery inside a mystery… There are actually 3 story lines running during 3 different time lines, but it is so well done that you absolutely keep everything straight and it is not confusing in the least. You have the “current day” story, set in 2014, with Fiona investing a story of a girls boarding school set in 1950. These are the (2) main story lines, but you also have Fiona, dealing with the death of her sister almost 20 years ago, in 1994. The character development was set at just the right pace, the book moved along at a good pace and the end was satisfying. I highly recommend this book.

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.

It started out a little slow for me at first but about a quarter of the way through I really got into it. The story is full of mystery, suspense, ghosts, and plenty of secrets. The main characters are people you would be able to relate to and the secondary characters you may know from your own life. Great read! I received this book as an ARC from the First to Read Program.

BE STILL MY HEART!!! If you read just ONE book in 2018, let it be THIS book! I don’t even know where to begin with this. I finished reading just before Thanksgiving and I tried to tell my family how amazing this book was but I simply could NOT sum up all my feels into words for them! I’ll try my best here. The Broken Girls is part ghost story, part mystery. It’s a dual timeline, which I loved, because everytime we jumped to the other time period, I wanted to keep reading the timeline we had just left. Both storylines were equally compelling. In 1950 we follow four boarding school girls, we know from the start of the book that one is murdered. Why we don’t know is which girl it is, why, and who did it. Was it the ghost? Was it a human? You’re literally guessing until almost the end. Meanwhile, in 2014 we follow Fiona, a 30-something year old woman who’s life was torn asunder years ago when her sister was murdered and her body dumped on the creepy boarding school property. With the boarding school property purchased by a mysterious millionaire, Fiona—a journalist—sets out to write a story about the restoration… and maybe find answers to her own sisters murder. This is a story filled to the brim with secrets. Every thread of this story is woven so intricately together that if you don’t read closely, you may miss a clue. Seriously you guys, I can't even. This book is everything. Upon finishing it, all I could think was, “Damn. I need to read EVERYTHING Simone St. James has ever written.” Seriously. This is a must read. Though I received a digital ARC for free for review purposes, at some point I will probably go buy the actual book for my bookshelf to reread in the future.

I really enjoyed this book. It drew me in immediately and didn't let go. The ending to me left a bit to b desired but overall I would highly recommend. 4 stars

I don't usually go for horror books but this one isn't the typical scary book. I loved the setting and character development since I'm a freak for detail and history. Is a thriller that will have you guessing.. The unwanted girls together in a setting decades apart yet do similar strikes a chord. I will definitely be reading more of Simone St.James in future!

got to read this book thanks to first to read. it took a while to get into but I was drawn into the tale of Fiona and the girls of Idlewild. the story alternates between the present (2014) and the past (1950). the present follows Fiona as she struggles to deal with the 20th anniversary of her sisters death and the renovation of the grounds she was killed on. the 50s focuses on 4 girls in a boarding school for girls who have familes that just don't want to deal with them anymore. Katie, CeCe, Roberta, and Sonia are all different, all outcasts, all unwanted. together they try to navigate their school and figure out their futures. the school the girls go to and the grounds Fiona's sister was killed on are one and the same. it is also haunted (or so the girls say) by Mary hand. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who wants or likes thrillers. can't wait for more from this author.

This is my first exposure to Simone St. James, it will not be my last. The author sets the book across two separate decades that progress and overlap each other seamlessly. She manages to develop many characters without overwhelming the story. 1950: Idlewild Hall is a boarding school for disposable girls. The trouble makers, the illegitimate, the troubled and the unwanted. The school is supposed to be a safe place to prepare the girls for life after Idlewild.. Every girl hates it. Every girl fears it and the resident ghost, Mary Hand. Roberta, Cee Cee, Katie and Sonia are roommates that bond and become a makeshift family in order to survive their time at the school. When one of them disappears the authorities dismiss it as a runaway situation; they will not listen to the roommates plea that something bad has happened to their friend. 2014: Idlewild Hall has been vacant for decades and is in disrepair. It also happens to be where the main character's sister was found murdered 20 years prior. Fiona, a journalist, has never found closure surrounding her sister's case despite the capture and conviction of the killer. She always felt there was more to the case and has been searching for answers ever since. When an anonymous benefactoress decides to restore Idlewild to it's former "glory" Fiona wants to write an exclusive on the school, the history, the impact on the town and of course the ghost. During a walk through of the property a body is discovered and sends Fiona into journalistic overdrive, determined to find answers. Who is the person? Are they connected to the school? Is there any connection to her sister's murder and how does this connect to the new owners; if at all? The author keeps the reader questioning just enough to keep turning the pages to find out what the next development will be. It is an easy read; light and fluid despite it being a murder mystery. I would recommend the book.

Not for people who have issues about violence against women and children, child abuse, the Holocaust, and unpunished murders. A pretty grim book, overall, but well constructed, with some likable iron willed female characters. They'll do whatever it takes, so whether you like this book or not probably hangs on whether you admire the will to survive terrible odds--even if it leads the characters to do some questionable things. The past is all tangled up in the present at Idlewild Hall. A haunted school for girls, where the students pass down warnings about the resident ghost. For one girl, though, the ghost isn't the real danger--in fact, quite a few sources of death abound in the town surrounding the school. And the past has a way of haunting the present, until all those old ghosts are laid to rest. The mystery gets pretty complex without growing confusing, and the end is fairly satisfactory. A good read for people with a strong stomach for suffering, but not one I'd read again.

I really enjoyed this book! I don't normally like reading any ghost stories because I'm easily scared, but this one wasn't too frightening. The author did a good job of setting the scene and I enjoyed seeing a story play out between two time periods and multiple sets of protagonists. Very well written. A fun read!

A boarding school for "troubled teens," mysterious deaths, a ghost who haunts the school decades into the future, and a local journalist who's the sister of a student who died twenty years before--all of these elements (along with other plot and character surprises) come together in this page-turning mystery, "The Broken Girls" by Simone St. James. This ARC from Penguin First to Read was a delightful surprise as I'd never read anything else by St. James. I don't typically enjoy ghost stories, but this one, which spans more than half a century in a small town in Vermont, grabbed my attention and my time until I'd finished. Find a comfortable chair and enjoy this novel! Thank you, Penguin First to Read.

This book totally creeped me out! But in a delightful, beguiling way. The Amazon description of this story mentions that the school involved is rumored to be haunted; that is an understatement. Idlewild Hall is a school for girls that no one wants, and in 1950 one of them mysteriously disappears. In 1994 a young woman, daughter of a local celebrity, is found murdered on the playing field of the now abandoned school. In 2014, Fiona, that young woman’s sister, is now a journalist and after hearing that the school is to be restored, she can’t help but start her own investigation into the circumstances of her sister’s murder. As the restoration begins, a body is found in an old well on the property and Fiona now finds herself investigating two deaths. Fiona soon finds herself deep in the mystery of Idlewild Hall, but will she come out of it alive? If you like paranormal or thrillers, you must read this book. I was so drawn into this story that I completely tuned out everything else. I love a book that can do that. The storyline is complex and twisty but it all flows really well and comes together brilliantly at the end. Fiona is a great character who’s a bit lost at the beginning but finds her way while working through her sister’s death. Her hunky boyfriend adds some romance and angst to the story, and has issues of his own to work through, but I enjoyed the relationship and the way he treated Fiona. There are a host of strong female characters woven into the story. The author has constructed the story so that it shifts back and forth between events in 1950 and the investigation in 2014 which in this case adds to the mystery. It seemed like every time Fiona was about to discover something the story would shift to 1950 and vice versa, so there is a constant sense of anticipation. Simone St. James is definitely going on my “I-want-more-from-this-author” list. You may live to regret it if you pass this one up!

What a fabulous read that I couldn’t put down. I loved the back and forth in time and storylines. I highly recommend this one.

Generally, this is not the kind of book that I typically read. While I like a murder mystery, I am not one for ghosts and hauntings, however this book has changed my mind. The writing is wonderful and the shifting of the timeline between 1950 and 2014 is well balanced. All of the characters are distinct and well-rounded as well. The ghost does figure prominently in the story, yet it does not consume it which I really appreciate. The 1950's storyline took an interesting turn in terms of the crime-one that I was not predicting. I definitely recommend this book to others and will keep an eye out for future books from this author.

Thank you First To Read for giving me the chance to read an advanced copy of The Broken Girls by Simone St. James. I really enjoyed how this story was written going between the year 2014 in which Fiona Sheridan a local journalist is trying to get some answers to her older sister Deb's death and the year 1950 which focused on a group of girls and their lives at Idlewild Hall. Going between these stories it shows in the end how the present and past are connected and helps Fiona get the answers she was looking for. Simone St. James wrote this book in an easy to read way even with all the different points of view she was telling the story by. I can't wait to read more from her.

4 stars Thanks to First to Read and Berkely Books for this ARC in exchange for a truthful review. Had never read Simone St James before, but she will be added to my favorite authors. I will definitely read more of her work. She writes very smoothly with well developed characters. She builds her story, sprinkling it with just enough to peak your curiosity, and yet not give much away. She makes you feel like you are just hovering at the edge, standing in the mist, waiting for that first clear view of the pulsing activity that is all around you. This book moves between 1950 and the girls sent to the Idlewild Hall and 2014 where a journalist, Fiona Sheridan, is researching the death of her sister Deb. The four girls, from 1950, sharing one dorm room is Katie, Roberta, Ce Ce and Sonia. Each girl has her own chapter giving her background story. One of them ends up missing. However they have all seen Mary Hand, the resident spirit, as Mary haunts not only the school, but also the grounds. In the chapters of the 2014 timeline Fiona is bucking the small town where she was raised. It is a tight knit community. The son of it's most prominent family is in prison for killing her sister twenty years ago. Is he really guilty? She is fighting against the local police department, and it's retired police chief, in search of facts. To make things even more complicated, Fiona dates a cop, the son of the man who was the police chief at the time her sister was killed. No one wants to talk about that crime. Is there a cover up and if there is, who is really involved?

In 1950 Vermont, four girls are sent to Idlewild Hall, a boarding school for young girls who have trouble making it in the world, or whose families just don't want to deal with them. Sonia, Roberta, CeCe and Katie become friends. But then, while on a weekend visit with family, Sonia disappears. The authorities think she's run away, but the girls know better, and work to find out the truth. In 2014 Vermont, journalist Fiona Sheridan is still dealing with the death of her sister twenty years before. Her sister's body was found on the deserted grounds of Idlewild. When she hears that a rich family has purchased Idlewild she wonders why, and goes on the trail of a story about the school's history...and the ghost story connected to it. Chilling and compelling, The Broken Girls weaves a tale between two worlds. Alternating between 1950 and 2014, the story is seamlessly written, showing how things that happen in the past can have an effect on the future. The ghost in this story is subtle, yet incredibly creepy, and features into the story perfectly. Fiona is a perfect guide in both worlds. Although she doesn't appear in the past, I was rooting for her to find out about the things that happened in 1950 so she could find an answer about Sonia's disappearance, and about her sister's death. The Broken Girls is a true page turner, and a wonderful tale about friendship and, for Fiona, love and coming to terms with the horrible things that can happen in life. Ms. St. James has penned a story that will capture the reader's attention from the first page to the last, and stay with them long after the final page is turned. I received a copy of this book through Penguin's First To Read program.

I really enjoyed The Broken Girls by Simone St. James. The dual storyline was well done and provided all the relevant information regarding the death of Fiona Sheridan's sister, Deb, and a girl from 1950. There was the perfect amount of spookiness from the ghost storyline about Mary Hand. I enjoyed the investigative aspect of Fiona trying to solve the 1950 murder and her taking a fresh perspective on her sister's murder. The characters were well developed. I liked being able to see the four girls from both their own perspective and the other girls.

The Broken Girls is both frightening and enchanting. Simone St. James keeps you constantly on your toes as she intertwines Horror, Mystery and Romance all in one. She has a wonderful ability to make you feel like you are a silent character watching from the sidelines. This book is complex as it takes place in the past and the present, however, comes together in the present to wrap up the past. St. James is a talented author that exceeds your expectations.

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James was such an excellent thrilling book. Dual timelines that deal with murder and mystery (and a little bit of ghosts thrown in as well) made this book so good. The author did really well showcasing the important things during both timelines and also the story of Mary Hand, the ghost that haunts the land of Idlewild. In 2014, Fiona Sheridan is trying to move on from the murder of her sister which happened twenty years ago. Her sister's body was found on the grounds of Idlewild, an abandoned boarding school for girls, and her sister's boyfriend was convicted of the crime. Working as a journalist, she finds out that the Idlewild property had been sold and going to be restored by the new owners. Fiona decides to write a story about the restoration and opens the door to questions of the past: the death of her sister and the death of a girl who attended the boarding school. In 1950, Idlewild is a school for girls who are troublemakers or need to be forgotten. Four girls: Katie, CeCe, Roberta and Sonia become close friends and survive the hardships of life at Idlewild and the haunting of Mary Hand. Then, one of the girls disappears and the other girls are left with questions and a burning desire to find out what happened. Definitely recommend this book to all mystery/thriller lovers and will check out the author's other works.

I'm always in the mood for a new thriller/mystery read. Therefore, as soon as I saw the intriguing summary and haunting yet gorgeous cover for The Broken Girls by Simone St. James, I was sold. I couldn't want to learn more about Idlewild Hall and how the two mysteries - years apart! - connected. The Result? The Broken Girls was EXCELLENT! Combining two nail-bitting mysteries and a touch of the paranormal, The Broken Girls successfully intrigues, compels, and thrills. The Broken Girls beautifully blends together two timelines - Vermont, 1950 and Vermont, 2014. I thought Simone did a wonderful job of developing both times, and I especially enjoyed seeing Idlewild Hall at its prime as well as at its ruin. Learning about the private school and the bad as well as good it brought the girls firsthand truly added to the quality of the novel - it was nice to put faces to specific stories. I also enjoyed the additional mystery Vermont, 2014 had to offer. Idlewild Hall and the small town provided such a haunting setting. I read The Broken Girls at night, and some parts of me regretted that decision. From the decaying buildings to the intimidating ghosts to the dead bodies yet to be discovered, even the bravest of readers will surely find something to be frightened by. The Broken Girls features five POVs - the four Idlewild roommates (Katie, CeCe, Sonia, and Roberta) and Fiona Sheridan. To be honest the five POVs worried me at first, especially since those of the four Idlewild roommates blended together in the beginning. As the story continued however, each POV started to stand on its own, and by the end, I can truly say I got to know each girl on a personal level. Even with decades between the four roommates and Fiona Sheridan, all five women are incredibly similar - they're lost and flailing through life, hoping one day they'll find their peace. The four Idlewild roommates truly struck a cord in me. Their stories were so terrible yet they still managed to try their hardest to move on and make the best of the scary Idlewild Hall. Additionally, I enjoyed how Simone incorporated parts of history within their narratives - some parts of history that even I didn't know much about. In all, The Broken Girls is an incredibly strong thriller. While it does plenty of chilling and thrilling, it also gives a narrative to some of the worst past and present history has to offer.

The Broken Girls is a spine tingling thriller, by Simone St. James, which deftly unearths the complicated lives of boarding school girls at Idlewild Hall in 1950 and those who lived in the surrounding town years later. Fiona Sheridan, a current day journalist, starts an investigation into the history of Idlewild Hall after learning about its upcoming renovation and in doing so, Fiona uncovers the truth about her older sister's death and the ghosts that haunt the grounds. The Broken Girls captured my attention from the start and I couldn’t put it down. Simone St. James expertly navigates the story between genres; The Broken Girls is a couple of cold case murders, a ghost story and a suspense thriller set in the cold Vermont fall. The story is told from different points of view between the two time periods (1950 and 2014) and moves along at a good pace. Great storytelling with a chilling setting.

1950 - Four teen girls find safety in each other while trying to survive their time at Idlewild boarding school. Roberta walked in on her uncle trying to commit suicide after coming back from the war. The shock of seeing that rendered her mute and her parents shipped her off. Katie was sexually assaulted but due to previous bad behaviors her parents didn't believe her story and felt the need to send her off. CeCe is a bastard child born from a relationship between her mother, a housekeeper, and her rich boss. The disgrace this caused her mother sent her off the deep end and she almost killed CeCe so her father sent her to Idlewild to protect her or sweep her under the rug. Sonia is a survivor from a concentration camp. Her immediate family died in the camps and she was sent to America with a great aunt and uncle. However in their old age starting over with a child isn't part of their plan and ship her off to Idlewild as well. As we get to know the girls stories we find out that one of them has been murdered. 2014 - Fiona is still suffering with the murder of her older sister. It's been twenty years but she still feels like there's some loose ends despite her sisters boyfriend being in prison for the crime. Her sister's body was found dumped on the field of the closed Idlewild grounds. The news of the property being bought and restored has her on edge and when another body is found on the property Fiona can't help but begin digging once again. Will she finally get the answers she's look in for or will she solve a 60 year old murder? This story is multiple stories in one and keeps you jumping back and forth between past and present and trying to tie it all together. As you get to know the four girls your heart breaks hearing their stories knowing how quickly parents could just brush their kids off out of embarrassment rather than try to help them. It's also heartwarming to see just how far these girls will go to protect each other and stay together despite everything trying to tear them apart. Fiona's story is just intriguing as she pieces together all the different pieces of history to figure out exactly what was going on at the boarding school and finding out more about her sisters murder. As more information comes to light will any relationship survive the fallout. I received an ecopy of this book from to provide an honest review.

Fiona is still trying to get over the murder of her sister, 20 years ago, on the grounds of the old girl's school, closed down now and supposedly haunted. When she finds out someone has bought the property and is looking to restore it, she starts to research a story about the property. When a body is found during the renovations, Fiona's story and the book take a very unexpected detour. The story is slow to begin, despite Ms. St. James starting right off with a suspenseful scene. It isn't until Fiona starts delving into the older mystery that my interest was peeked. Historical touches and the strong relationship between the students nicely rounded out what could have easily been left as a trite story about murder(s) at a haunted property.

This book opens with an unidentified girl who believes she is being followed as she walks along a deserted road. She is trying to return to Idlewild Hall, a mediocre boarding school for girls built in 1919 and closed in the 1970s. The students there were troubled, unwanted and shunted off by their families. Part of this murder mystery/ghost story involves four roommates from 1950, Katie, CeCe, Roberta and Sonia. The other half of the story is set in 2014 and involves Fiona, a reporter who is obsessed with the 1994 murder of her sister. The sister's body had been dumped on the grounds of Idlewild Hall and her boyfriend was convicted of murder. Fiona is unconvinced of the boyfriend's guilt and her relentless investigations lead her to discover the history of the school and the roommates. I preferred the story of the students to that of Fiona, whose chief personality trait was self absorption. She's involved in a relationship with a cop. Fortunately for me the romance element didn't intrude too much into the basic story. The girls were much more interesting. They were tough, resourceful survivors and I liked their back stories and their loyalty to each other. The details of the ghostly presence of a young woman dressed in black were handled very well. Generations of students and teachers had been seeing and hearing the ghost. Everyone at the school was slightly on edge when not actually terrified. It's surprising that the school lasted as long as it did. The book combined murders, Nazis and a ghost in a very entertaining way. This is the second book that I've read by this author and I would be willing to read more. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

I enjoyed this wonderfully creepy story. It is a great mystery told well through the alternating time lines. The characters were all well developed. The fact that this has, historical fiction/mystery/ and ghost story rolled into one makes it a book with a lot to juggle, but juggled well. This is my second book by the author, and one I will continue to look for.

This book was creeptastic! I haven’t read a book in a long time that legitimately scared me. Fiona’s sister was found murdered on the grounds of the closed and run down school for girls, Idlewild. Two years later, a mysterious lady has bought the property and plans to restore the school. Construction halts when a body from 60 years ago is found in a well. Fiona, a journalist, finds herself pulled into solving three mysteries: who is the girl in the bottom of the well, how is she connected to Idlewild, and does Idlewild’s ghost, Mary Hand, have anything to do with it? The story goes back and forth between the present and 1950 where we learn about four girls, Cece, Roberta, Sonia, and Katie, who were roommates at Idlewild. Idlewild is a school for troubled girls but the biggest problem they have is staying away from Idlewild’s oldest occupant, Mary, who haunts the grounds and begs to be let in.

The Broken Girls is a multifaceted story about murder, ghosts, journalists and a boarding school. It deftly juggles two timelines that come together in a satisfying way. The book seemed a bit slow paced to me at times, but that may just be because I stretched out reading it over a month. Either way, I thought it was an enjoyable and well written read.

The Broken Girls is a gothic thriller with a ghost story at its heart. It was so creepy that my heart pounded the entire time I read. Idlewild Hall was a boarding school for troubled girls from 1915 until 1979. It was also the place where Fiona’s sister was found murdered in 1994. 20 years later a mysterious benefactor buys the property with the stated interest of restoring it and opening another school. Fiona decided to use her freelance journalism skills to look into it. The grounds are haunted by a ghost the schoolgirls called “Mary Hand.” She wanders the ground in a black dress and veil and shows you your worst memories. This book which was part ghost story, part thriller, and part murder mystery was amazing. I am hoping I can sleep tonight. I would recommend reading during the day.

This was a book that started slow and awkward. I almost gave it up. Thankfully, I didn't. The Broken Girls turned out to be a thriller and murder mystery that went beyond its genre, growing to be an indictment of the Holocaust and its excesses, a paranormal ghost story, a tale of friendship spanning decades, a tale of justice denied and fought for. After the Prologue set in November 1950, in which we learn that a young teenage girl is about to die, the story alternates between the 3rd person past tense viewpoint of Fiona in November 2014, and to those of Katie Winthrop, Roberta, CeCe and Sonia Gallipeau in October 1950. In time, we get to know the four girls, room-mates turned friends, quite closely. We learn of their individual histories, of how they came to be at Idlewild Hall. Each of them had a strong story which came out well. I was particularly touched by what Sonia had gone through, having lived at Ravensbrück prison as a young child. Through the twin narratives of Fiona and the Idlewild girls, we are acquainted with Mary Hand, a ghost who haunts the school. A ghost who is brings to life a person’s worst fears. A ghost who terrifies you with your worst horrors. Mary was a strong presence who left her mark on the story. Initially, I found the writing banal. But gradually, it seems as if the author gets more comfortable with the story. Simone does a great job of creating a mood of suspense and terror. It is in the descriptions and the action sequences that she truly excels. There is something forbidding, brooding about the descriptions. After the first few chapters, the writing became more intense. The fear that the characters felt, the emotions and feelings they went through became more real to us. I felt a deep sense of compassion for the four friends in 1950, with no family to love them. I didn’t quite take to Fiona initially. Her dad was more vigorous and alive, compared to her. But gradually I began to like her. Her character underwent a positive change. From being somebody who wrote fluffy lifestyle pieces, she began to want to write a story on Idlewild. I also appreciated the fact that even as she grieved for her own sister, she also grieved for Sonia, for the fact that no one had mourned her loss. Apart from these characters, I also found the four girls to be very strong and well drawn out. Jamie, on the other hand, I didn’t much care for, even though the author went on and on about his muscular arms. His character arc didn’t grow as well as Fiona’s had. The younger man-older woman pairing, 29 to 37, was bold. But the romance, in the initial chapters, was utterly lackluster. It was also a little unreal that Fiona felt absolutely no insecurity about the age gap. But then again, maybe it was because she had freethinking, hippie parents. But there were some errors and some awkwardness that slipped past that should have been caught. The name and surname, Charlotte Kankle, were repeated five times and Cindy Benshaw twice. Surely the author could have called her just Charlotte the second time onwards. On the other hand, we don’t get to know Roberta’s surname until 2014, as part of Fiona’s research. But these were minor errors in the larger scheme of things. The cover was beautiful. The intimidating image of Idlewild, as seen through a cracked window pane. The book was beautiful, and the women characters and their stories certainly deserve our attention. Read Full & Detailed review at

I was pleasantly surprised by this book, as I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. It was an addicting mix of paranormal mystery and suspense. My heart ached for the girls at Idlewild Hall, and I couldn't wait to find out what happened with each one.

Thank you Penguin for the chance to read this book! A plot that moves from past to present you get the slow building creep factor. The characters are well developed and the ghost story kept you on the edge of your seat. The dual time line keeps you moving along and the way the stories connect is well done.

I could not have been more astonished at the sheer depth of the plot that this book contained. I loved that the story was told in voices of the past that integrated to solve the mystery. The characters were well written and I really felt for Fiona and the inner battle she fought in regards to her sister. I would be interested in reading more books in a similar vein by this author. The combination of genres was extremely compelling and fresh.

This book was amazing! It was part ghost story, part mystery and part historical fiction. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys mysteries. I don't normally read horror, so I was a bit concerned that it might be too scary to read before bed. It had the right amount of scare, though!

Thank you so much to Penguin Books, First to Read and Simone St. James for allowing me to read an early copy of The Broken Girls in exchange for my honest review. I loved this book! I was immediately drawn in to this creepy story and found it so hard to put down. And I'm not ashamed to admit that even though I read it on my backlit Nook, I still had to keep the lights on. Haha! My first experience with Simone St. James was a year ago when I received Lost Among the Living in my Once Upon a Book Club Box. No one does creepy gothic mystery/thrillers quite like her.

I didn't know what to think about the plot at the beginning, but after thirty pages it was obvious that this book was going to be incredible. Very awesome and entertaining.

This was a great read. Thoroughly creepy, yet emotionally stirring, I had a hard time putting this book down. I spent the whole time wondering if people or ghosts were responsible for the murders, and I appreciated how everything was resolved. I really enjoyed this book and eagerly await future works by this author.

This was my first book by Simone St. James but it will most definitely not be my last. Part suspense, part historical fiction, part ghost story, part mystery, all amazing. Set in 1950 and 2014 Vermont, centered around a girls boarding school, Idlewild Hall, where troubled teens were sent until it was shut down in 1979 and left to rot. In 2014, Fiona Sheridan is a journalist whose sister was murdered, then dumped at Idlewild in 1994. She learns that the school has been bought and is being restored and reopened, which brings up all sorts of ghosts, literal and figurative. There is her sister, Deb. There is Sonia Gallipeau, a student who went missing in 1950. There is Mary Hand, the ghost who has haunted Idlewild since the beginning. Fiona must bring closure to all of their stories. I loved this book. It is the kind of story that I could not put down. It is full of suspense, and mystery, at times heartbreaking and joyous, full of wonderful characters that are easy to root for, and thankfully, by the end, everything comes full circle.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, part cold-case mystery, part ghost story, set in Barrons, Vermont. Told with a dual timeline, which connects 'The Broken Girls' of Idlewild Hall back in 1950, to the present day, where journalist Fiona is still seeking answers for the murder of her sister Deb, some twenty years earlier, on the grounds of the boarding school. She refuses to let her murder, as well as the Idlewild girls be forgotten. As Fiona unravels the stories of these forgotten girls, she gradually solves more than one mystery in the process. This mystery also reads as a ghost story, and being set in a boarding school (one of my favorite settings), means it's rich with atmosphere. The lonely lanes of Barrons, Vermont, highlight the loneliness of the characters in the novel, and there's a sadness throughout as well: the tragedies that led the girls to be at the school in the first place, they were all discarded by their families or by society. Simone's writing is seamless in weaving the different stories of girls (and Fiona) together to where they complete each other, and with respect to her research, I appreciated her acknowledging in her afterword that she researched Ravensbruck (Nazi concentration camp), which is where one of the characters spent her time as a victim during the war. I can't reveal too much about the ghostly element of the story, plus there's also some 'dirty cop' drama plus a mild romantic conflict, but those do play significant but small parts in the story-line. If you're looking for a cold-case mystery with elements of a ghost story that is just that right amount of spooky, this is it. Simone has hit the nail on the head.

Great book. The plot was complex but didn't get confusing. The story was interesting and exciting and unfolded at a nice pace. All the plot lives were wrapped. Just an all around great book that I would recommend to anyone who likes a good mystery.

Thanks for this ARC. Simone St.James will always be a go-to author for me. Quality, otherworldly, current, and thought provoking novels are her specialty. Broken Girls will have you spinning for weeks after finishing it. It would make a excellent movie.

This story was filled with suspense and intrigue... I usually don’t like it when the story bounces around from the current time to the past time, it annoys me, but this story was written in such a way that I greatly enjoyed it. I’m not very good at figuring out who the killer is so I enjoyed trying to figure it out with Fiona. This story had some twists and turns as well as some ghostly sightings that kept the story mysterious. I absolutely loved this story and would recommend it to people who like a good mystery.. I rate it a full 5 stars! Thanks for selecting me to read your book first, it was a real treat. Great job!!

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is the first book I read through the 'Penguin First to Read' program. I have read one other book by her in the past, The Haunting of Maddy Clare, and I enjoyed it immensely so I was super excited to be chosen to read an advanced copy of this book. First off let me say that there a few plot devices that I am always a sucker for in books and this book had one of my favorites. Creepy and potentially haunted institution? Check. In this case it was boarding school, Idlewild Hall, that the girls attended. It was suitably creepy and mysterious and filled with all the conflicting personalities that you would expect in a place where people were forced to live together and most of them against their will. The book bounces back and forth between this setting and the present. The four main characters for these parts of the book are all very well written and you find yourself really feeling sympathetic for them. There is one scene in particular, set during a detention period, that really gave me the chills. While the past is a ghost story, the present is a murder mystery staring reporter Fiona Sheridan. She is another character who is also very believable because she is not perfect and has plenty of flaws. I found myself very engaged with finding out the truth about her sister right along side her. I read this book very quickly because I found it hard to set down. Part ghost story, part historical fiction, part murder mystery; it had everything I look for in a book and I am sure that anyone who picks it up will enjoy it as well. A perfect read for those cold and rainy fall days!

A gripping dual-timeline novel about a haunting girls boarding school that alternates between 1950 and 2014. This is definitely a thriller - part historical fiction, part murder mystery, part ghost story. I enjoyed it, although there are a few parts that I am trying not to over-analyze (I won't nitpick here either, just to make sure I don't give away any spoilers), but if I don't let myself get hung up on details, it was quite an entertaining read.

This is one of those books where the setting is just as important and interesting as the main characters. I thought the author did a fantastic job in making Idelwild Hall sound so creepy and spooky and the type of place you wouldn't want to set foot in. I loved how the story switched back and forth between characters and timelines. I thought the mysteries of what happened to the murdered girls was fairly predictable but in no way did it lessen my enjoyment of this book. I'd recommend to anyone looking for a dark atmospheric novel with a bit of mystery. Thank you First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy!

I really enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down! It was a great October read!

Could not put this book down. Suspenseful and keeps you wanting to know more.

3.5/5 This book was pretty damn interesting, If i do say so myself. In Summary: Fiona Sheridan is a journalist who is obsessed with the case of her sisters murder,even though it happened 20 years ago. Her sisters killer is behind bars yet something about the case still doesn't sit right. When Fiona finds out that someone has bought Idlewild Hall, an abandoned boarding school for troubled and unwanted girls, and is planning on restoring it, she jumps at the chance to write a story about it. Idlewild Hall is the location her sisters corpse was found and she plans to use this story as a means to dig deeper into her sisters murder. While touring the grounds with the new investors son, a former students body is discovered in the well and Fiona begins to to uncover the horrible secrets that were buried with the poor child. Two separate murders about 60 years apart and both connected by one creepy boarding school. This story starts off a little dry and was hard to hold my attention but I did end up getting into the story and was able to appreciate the writing style and premise. It was packed with quite a few entertaining mysteries without being overbearing and I liked that it wasn't your typical "who did it?" type of book. It was more of a "who did it?, who helped do it?, why did they do it?, oh shit theres a ghost? What the hell does this ghost want and why is it scaring the shit out of everyone? Nazi's??" type of story. It went a little super natural and threw in sort of a little ghost story as well which I appreciated. Overall it wasn't my type of novel I like to read but I can see how it would appeal to those who love a good thriller or mystery and it could easily become one of their favorite books. Well written with a good level headed and intelligent main character. The other characters have good substance as well and I really liked the switching point of views from Fiona and the girls of IdleWild. Defintely would recommend to friend in families who love these types of books.

I loved this book. 2 deaths from 2 different time periods are connected by a mysterious school. The story had me hooked from page one. It was spooky and satisfying. Nearly every chapter ended with me holding my breath for what was coming next. I usually always enjoy books that tell the story from 2 different periods of time and this was no exception. I was not familiar with this author before. I plan to get my hands on more of her books now.

St. James does not disappoint with this story. We have ghosts, romance, history, and the events that caused the ghosts. For this story St. James uses a North American setting instead of her usual England. And it is set in the 21st century. Like the other books of her's that I have read, the characters are very well written and seem like someone you could meet while out shopping. This story is a big suspense builder and I wanted to finish it in one sitting.


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