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Girls of Brackenhill


Girls of Brackenhill

From bestselling author Kate Moretti comes GIRLS OF BRACKENHILL, a gothic thriller set in a mysterious castle in the Catskills with a reputation for stealing the sanity of women and the bodies of children.

When Hannah Maloney receives a late-night call that her Aunt Fae has been in a car accident, she is surprised to learn that she is Fae's emergency contact. After all, she has not seen her aunt in 17 years, not since her beloved sister, Julia, disappeared on Fae's property, Brackenhill. Rousing her clean-cut, even-keeled fiance, Huck, she prepares to make the journey to the Catskills, where her aunt’s castle is located. Although Hannah is dreading returning to the scene of her worst memory, she expects that her aunt will have a broken leg or cracked rib, and her stay there will be brief. Of course, that is not the case.

"Moretti is known for her chilling storylines and riveting plots, and GIRLS OF BRACKENHILL fits right in with her backlist. It gripped me from the very beginning with its dual timeline and meshing of the past and present."

When Hannah arrives at the hospital, she learns that Fae has died and her Uncle Stuart, suffering from a deadly cancer, is alone at Brackenhill. Although Hannah is terrified to reveal this portion of her life to Huck --- the melodrama of her family’s dysfunction and the tragedy of her sister’s disappearance --- she knows they must help Stuart and determine what is to be done with the estate. But returning to Brackenhill means revisiting the scene of her sister’s potential death and reconsidering what might have happened that disastrous summer. When Huck finds a human jawbone on the property, near the place where Julia’s purse was found 17 years ago, Hannah starts to recall disturbing details from the year she disappeared.

Alternating between Hannah’s memories of the past and her eerie present, Moretti paints a picture of a family that seems as tied to tragedy as they are to dysfunction. From a young age, Hannah felt ignored by her mother, often turning to her sister for companionship and love. When the girls hit their early teens, their mother began depositing them with her sister at Brackenhill for the summer, claiming that she could not trust them alone all day while she worked. Though the girls did not have much of a relationship with their aunt or her husband, Brackenhill and its 1,000 acres of forestland and fields seemed like the perfect retreat, full of magic and wonder, and far, far away from their mother’s husband and his wandering hands. But as Hannah and Julia grew older, the estate began getting creepier. During the summer of her disappearance, Julia often claimed to see or hear things, and the castle’s locked rooms, labyrinth-like basement and isolation did not help assuage her fears. As Julia tried to pull away from Brackenhill, Hannah often felt torn between her dream home and her best friend.

In the present day, Hannah becomes obsessed with finding out the truth about her sister’s disappearance, her aunt’s estrangement and the mystery at the heart of Brackenhill’s hold over women’s sanities. Brackenhill is full of creaking doors and cold chills, and it is not long before Huck is spooked by the estate and Hannah’s ties to it. When the logistics of Fae’s death are mostly wrapped up, Hannah and Huck’s relationship becomes strained as she starts to dive deeper into the castle’s history and its connection to Julia's disappearance --- growing closer to the town’s lead detective, her childhood crush, in the process.

As Hannah’s understanding of Julia's final summer deepens, she starts to uncover disturbing secrets best kept buried --- including a hazy memory of one final fight with her and the sensation that she might have harmed her. With the successful, happy life she has created for herself hanging in the balance, Hannah begins to unravel along with the secrets of the past. Although the twists and turns of her past will not be unfamiliar to frequent thriller and gothic suspense readers, it is Moretti’s handling of the atmosphere and setting that ramps up the book’s tension and chill factor.

Moretti is known for her chilling storylines and riveting plots, and GIRLS OF BRACKENHILL fits right in with her backlist. It gripped me from the very beginning with its dual timeline and meshing of the past and present. She uses each timeline to propel and inform the other, with multiple mysteries unwrapping at all times, making it a real edge-of-your-seat thriller. But this is not your typical haunted house story or murder mystery; Moretti writes family dysfunction with sophistication and grace, and it is the effects of Hannah’s trauma that are most skillfully rendered in believable and horrifying ways.

Perfect for readers of Wendy Walker, Mary Kubica and any of Moretti’s previous novels, GIRLS OF BRACKENHILL is a delicious, creepy book full of things that go bump in the night.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on December 4, 2020

Girls of Brackenhill
by Kate Moretti

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Gothic, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 331 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
  • ISBN-10: 1542000084
  • ISBN-13: 9781542000086