by Simone St. James
Publication Date: March 15, 2022
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery
Here’s the thing with me – and I can’t blame it on age, I’ve always been this way – when I read a book that resonates with me, of course I look for more by that author, but I want some of the same … template I got in the first story. I like the predictability; it’s relaxing to a degree (any why I enjoy a good series so much). So, when I pick up an author’s later books and they go and change it up, I did my heels in and become truculent.
With no other author has this been more true than with Simone St. James. I loved her first 5 books. They were spooky, don’t-read-at-night ghost stories set in the interwar period. Then came Broken Girls and I got my feathers so ruffled over the change to a dual timeline, present/past format that I’d decided I wasn’t going to read it. Nope. No way. Doesn’t matter how long that lasted, because of course I caved and read it. And I loved it. So I eagerly bought The Sun Down Motel and liked it too, and when the announcement came out for The Book of Cold Cases, I pre-ordered it. Only to find out that she’s messed with the format again.
The changes she made this time were more subtle. It’s still a dual, present/past timeline, but this go-around both the characters are still alive and they’re interacting, facing off in a weird frenemy sort of fashion – shades of Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale. There are definitely ghosts and at least one is malevolent, and the spookiness kicks off immediately. (What is it about turning around to find all the cabinet doors open at once that is so creepy and spooky?) What’s most dramatically different though, it that although there is a definite resolution to the mystery the Lady Killer Murders, there isn’t an ending to the book that wraps everything up in a neat, tidy package, with everyone getting the emotional release they want.
So did I like it? Well, yes, after I got done sulking through the first several chapters. The ghost(s) were unsettling, and St. James took the mystery in all sorts of jagged directions; both the reader and the MC had to pry the facts of what happened out of the story and Beth (the past’s MC). I never knew what was happening until it happened, and the ending left me feeling unsettled, which I suppose is what a ghost story should do.
Did I like it as much as her previous books? No. It was good, but I still prefer the style of the first 5, and something about The Broken Girls felt edgier than this one, but I’m not sorry I read it or that I bought it. It’s a solid, well told ghost story with a straight forward mystery.
I read this for Halloween Bingo 2022 for the Ghosts & Hauntings square.