The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel


Jane was the first to run. Sophia and Penelope died. Sisters Eleanor and Camilla ran, and the third sister, Emmeline, died. Lane ran from Roanoke after one summer. Allegra disappeared, and now Lane is the only Roanoke girl left who can return to the Roanoke house and help her.
After fifteen-year-old Lane Roanoke’s mother commits suicide, she is sent from New York to live with her grandparents and cousin, Allegra, at their farmhouse in rural Kansas. Lane has dreamt of the Roanoke house for years, despite her mother fleeing from the home whilst pregnant with Lane and warning her that it was a place of nightmares – for Roanoke girls either run, or they die. When Lane uncovers the truth, she becomes one of the girls to run.
Ten years after Lane’s long summer at Roanoke, her estranged family track her down with news: Allegra, the one member of the family who Lane truly cared about, has gone missing. Lane feels obligated to return to the Roanoke house to search for her cousin – but will the darkness of Roanoke allow her to leave a second time?

 (Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for sending me an eARC of The Roanoke Girls.)


Thrillers definitely aren’t my go-to genre. To be honest, I just scare too easily, so I tend to avoid most things that I know are almost guaranteed to have me curled up in a ball on the sofa every time I’m alone in my flat, unwilling to move in case a murderer crept through a window whilst I wasn’t looking. However, every now and then, I find a thriller with a plot that I just cannot resist. This started, of course, with Queen Gillian Flynn, whose complete works I grew to love after giving Gone Girl a chance. Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, similarly, unnerved me but kept me in it’s grasp. When I read the summary of The Roanoke Girls, I knew; this will be another one of those books that will almost definitely scare or unsettle me in some way, but that I’ll almost definitely love. As I guessed, I was right – I actually read this book in just one sitting.

I found The Roanoke Girls to be very reminiscent of Sharp Objects – the deep-hidden family secrets, the mystery in a small town of a Southern US state, etc. – and as this was my favourite Gillian Flynn book, I definitely wasn’t complaining. I immediately liked Lane and found that she was definitely a main character who I could easily read about for a long time, and the switches between her present life and her life ten years ago, when she was living in Roanoke, helped to build her as a character really well. I can’t fault any of the secondary characters, either – I just wish I’d gotten to know Allegra a bit better, although her elusiveness did add to the overall mystery of the plot.
The older Roanoke girls – Lane’s mother, aunts and great-aunts – all got small chapters about themselves, expanding upon the dark secret that the Roanoke family hides within itself. I thought that this little touch was such a good way to develop the plot and show how each of the girls were affected.

So, the secret of the Roanoke girls: I won’t say what it is, but it is revealed very early on into the plot. I didn’t have a problem with this, as it helped to expand what each of the girls have been through because of this family secret and the twisted way in which they had all accepted it at some point in their lives, rather than it being a big shock at the end of the book. Really, the mystery of the book as a whole was what happened to Allegra in the present day and what led to her disappearance, rather than finding out what the secret itself was. It is a very dark, unsettling secret, which some readers may not be comfortable reading about, so I’d just recommend being aware of this going into this book.

Honestly, my only problem with this book is that I wanted more. I wanted it to be longer so I could learn more about each of the characters, so I could continue to follow the mysteries of what happened at Roanoke house, so I could know more of Lane’s backstory and of what she was going to do next. I read that this is Amy Engel’s first adult novel, and I honestly cannot wait to read her next one if she writes more.

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Love,

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

“Wouldn’t we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?”


Dangerous Girls is a contemporary mystery thriller. It’s the story of Anna, a girl who is away in Aruba for Spring Break with a group of friends, when one morning they find her best friend Elise stabbed to death in her room. Anna is immediately labelled as the prime suspect. The book follows Anna’s desperate attempts to prove her innocence, and as the mystery is unravelled further, it grows clear that some members of the group are hiding things from the night of Elise’s murder… 


Angharad:



Okay, I just read this book in one sitting and now my eyeball hurts. I am in too much shock to form a coherent review so I’ll do some bullet points. Okay? Good.


THE COMPLEXITY OF TEENAGE GIRLS AND THEIR RELATIONSHIPS. Were Anna and Elise more than just friends? Probably. Does it matter? No. I think we will all have our opinions about the nature of their relationship but deep down, it is two girls with an obsession with each other. And obviously, if you’ve read the book, obsession isn’t always a good thing. 


The entire justice system. I wanted to scream because it couldn’t be real but at the same time, yes it is. We see this happen in real life, like Anna says, it is all like a well-constructed play and everybody has their parts. It doesn’t always matter whether a person is innocent or guilty. Also the whole media coverage?? It really makes you think how much is real.

Anna is such a complex character? I can’t get too much into my thoughts about her because she is just one big mystery but woah, her character was so amazing to read. She was so unpredictable and also relatable to me. 

– Overall, this is a book that you will start and within a few pages, will become hooked by. I just wanted to get to the end (in a good way) so I could find out what happened. The novel includes transcripts, phone logs and even a floor plan which makes you feel so much more immersed in the story and trial itself. I haven’t previously read any of Abigail Haas’ work before but I definitely will from now on. I’m so annoyed that this book has been on my shelf for so long. 

– Go and read it!

– But prepare to have your mind blown!




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Becky:
Dangerous Girls is such a compelling read. I loved this book so much that I finished it in just a few hours – it drags you in and keeps you captivated throughout its entirety. I couldn’t put it down as I had to know who had killed Elise – I really couldn’t concentrate on anything else until I’d found out! Then, when I did find out, I was so shocked but at the same time, so happy. This book had such a perfect ending. 

Everything about this book was so complex, from Anna and Elise’s relationship and what their possessiveness over each other entailed, to Anna’s character in itself. I loved the way that the story unfolded, starting with Elise’s death, and how the reader was allowed to see more and more of ‘behind the scenes’ and flashback moments as the book went on, as well as floor plans of the holiday home and other pieces of evidence used in the trial. It allowed you to form your opinion on each character and on who committed the murder, change those opinions constantly as the book went on, and then have your mind completely blown when you reach the end and find out that everything you thought you’d worked out in this book was a lie.

I can’t recommend Dangerous Girls enough – I’m not always a fan of contemporaries, but this beautiful little contemporary mystery-thriller just blew me away. I can’t wait to read Dangerous Boys!




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Have you read Dangerous Girls? Let us know what you think of it in the comments! 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

 

Based on a true story, ‘Burial Rites’ tells the story of the last days of Agnes, a woman charged with the murder of her former master. Upon waiting execution, Agnes is sent to live with a family on an isolated farm in Iceland. At first, her only friend is Tóti, a priest she has chosen to be her spiritual guardian. We follow her story as she goes from being feared to understood and the truth that is eventually unsurfaced.


Becky’s thoughts
It isn’t often that I read crime fiction, but the idea of a Scandinavian crime novel based on a true story definitely appealed to me. I’m currently in Iceland, and chose to read Burial Rites leading up to and during my trip here to see the full perspective of the book, and I’m so glad I did! Burial Rites gives a lot of interesting cultural facts about Iceland, and being immersed in that culture definitely made me read this book in a different light. I was immediately drawn in to Agnes’s story and the mysteries surrounding it that were unfolded as the book went on. The narrative didn’t move too fast which perfectly built up the tension as you got closer towards the end, and the letters and records (all from real archives from the events) at the beginning of each chapter really helped to keep the facts straight, as well as inform you what was happening outside of Kornsà, where Agnes was staying. I loved how Agnes’s story was told through her telling it to the priest sent to absolve her before her execution, rather than the book beginning at the crime scene – it really helped to develop Agnes as a character, as well as developing her relationships with the priest and the family she was staying with. The ending was sudden, perfect, and heartbreaking all at once. I also really enjoyed the section at the end of the book in which Hannah Kent explains how she discovered Agnes and her story. The conversations she describes having with Icelandic locals who believed Agnes to be a witch or an evil woman really showed how awful the unfair prejudices against her were during her sentencing. I really did enjoy this book and would thoroughly recommend it – just be prepared to have your heart broken.

Angharad’s thoughts
Right, this book? Wow.

Upon starting it, realising that it was based on a true story (and a story I wasn’t aware of), I automatically became 10x more fascinated. I haven’t read a lot of books based in Iceland so diving into a new country and learning new traditions was truly an amazing experience (especially with the help sheet at the start.) I like that the author included actual documents taken from the event and included them throughout the book. Not only does it add authenticity, but it also allows you to have knowledge of old Icelandic beliefs.


I loved Agnes as a character and knowing her fate from the start really allowed you to connect to her and the fear she must have surely felt. Seeing her relationship with the family grow was equally heartwarming and heartbreaking and I love that Agnes chose to reveal different parts of her past to different people. I like how everything moved slowly but surely to the end which yep, tore my heart out. 

I like how the end was recorded (as a fact rather than fiction) because it made it all the more real. It’s one of those novels that although you know what is going to happen, you still wish it didn’t. Following Agnes as she went from being feared and hated to eventually respected and understood was so important and needed to happen in order for you to feel empathy at the end of the book.
 
I would definitely recommend this. It’s informative, heartbreaking and an atmospheric read.