“Mary Hand Mary Hand,
Dead and buried understand.
She’ll say she wants to be your friend.
Do not let her in again.”
This is the rhyme that, in 1950, the girls at Idlewild Hall, a boarding school for girls in Vermont, were singing about the ghost who haunted the school’s gardens.
Although I was a little put off by the ghost element, of which I am not a big fan in thrillers, after reading the blurb, I was really drawn to this book. I loved that the novel is set partly in a boarding school and even the alternation between the past and the present which is always good in a mystery book.
In 1950, Idlewild Hall is a boarding school for troubled girls, girls whose families found difficult to deal with, the ones who caused troubles, the ones who were illegitimate, the ones who had no family left, the ones who were going through a traumatic event. Among them, four girls, roommates, and best friends, Katie, CeCe, Roberta, and Sonia. As each is going through their own personal problems, they also have to deal with Mary Hand, the ghost who haunts Idlewild Hall’s gardens and who reveals each girl’s worst fear.
In 2014, Fiona Sheridan is a freelance journalist who is writing an article about Idlewild Hall. After the boarding school closed in 1979, the place was left abandoned until now that a rich woman has decided to renovate it. The place is personal for Fiona because that’s where her sister’s body had been dumped after being killed by her boyfriend twenty years earlier. Fiona has never gotten over her sister’s death and she still visits the place, even in the middle of the night.
Moving between 1950 and 2014, between the four Idlewild Hall girls and Fiona, I was completely immersed as a I read about creepy and scary ghosts and legends, mysterious disappearances, homicides, prejudices against women, and small-town politics.
THE BROKEN GIRLS is dark and disturbing with a gothic atmospheric and characters with rich personality. As I said, I am not a big fan of ghost presences in novels, but somehow the paranormal elements (although not really necessary to the story) work perfectly well in this novel and give it another touch of suspense and thrill.
Haunting, sharp, and atmospheric, THE BROKEN GIRLS is one of these books that I couldn’t wait to go back to read, and it’s out now (in eBook in the UK).