By Simone St. James; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman
Soon after a wealthy widow starts to renovate decrepit Idlewild, once a girls’ boarding school of last resort, a body is found at the bottom of a well.
For journalist Fiona Sheridan, it’s an echo of the past: 20 years earlier, the body of her older sister Deb was dumped on Idlewild’s sports field. Her clothes were ripped and her face bloodied.
The police arrested Tim Christopher, Deb’s boyfriend. He was convicted and sent to prison. But details of the investigation never fit for Fiona.
Now with the anniversary of her sister’s death approaching, the discovery of another body and the renovation of Idlewild, Fiona wants to write an in-depth story about the property and its history.
Both her editor and her boyfriend, Jaime Creel, have misgivings. Jaime, a policeman and the son and grandson of police chiefs in Barrons, VT, believes her grief is leading her into an unhealthy obsession.
Author Simone St. James alternates Fiona’s story with those of four suite mates who lived at Idlewild in 1950: the beautiful, trouble-making Katie Winthrop, the illegitimate CeCe Ellesmere, the athletic Roberta Greene; and French refugee and Ravensbrücke survivor Sonia Gallipeau.
Woven through these stories is the ghost of Mary Hand, who appears as a veiled woman in black — or a scratching at a window, a disembodied voice, a wave of cold air or touching hands. She has terrorized students at Idlewild for decades. Mary was the daughter of the family that lived on the property before the school was built in 1919. Generations of Idlewild students have written about seeing or hearing her in the margins of their Latin textbooks, where teachers never look.
This is a classic ghost-haunting story mingled with ordinary corruption. It’s also a tale of friendship, loyalty and loss. If you’re a regular reader of author Simone St. James, there are elements of this story that will seem familiar — the dual time lines, a haunted place and multiple mysteries.
This is well-done story-telling with a satisfying surprise ending. It’s not as well done as THE SUN DOWN MOTEL
, but still a pleasure.
If atmospheric, dual time lines and multiple mysteries are to your taste, you might also enjoy Jennifer McMahon’s THE INVITED
and WINTER PEOPLE
About the Author: Simone St. James
Canadian author Simone St. James worked behind the scenes in television for 20 years before leaving to write full time.
Her first published novel was THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, which won two RITA Awards from the Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada.
Although THE SUN DOWN MOTEL is set in the 1982 and 2017, most of her books are set in England during the 1920s, including LOST AMONG THE LIVING (2016), THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT (2015), SILENCE FOR THE DEAD (2014), and AN INQUIRY INTO LOVE AND DEATH (2013), which was nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award.
She lives outside Toronto with her husband and a spoiled rescue cat.
Sounds good. Thanks for reviewing!