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Good Girls Lie


Good Girls Lie

"Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping."Virginia Woolf, A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN

Not only could these words from Virginia Woolf practically be a primer for J.T. Ellison's new novel, GOOD GIRLS LIE, they also eerily fit into its contemporary setting. The title itself is a play on words. The young women's boarding school at the heart of this tale is the Goode School, housing the daughters of the wealthy and powerful from all over. However, it will be the entrance of a sophomore student hailing from Oxford, England, that will shake things up and drive the narrative.

Lying is used as a weapon throughout the book. So much that is said ends up being questionable to the point where readers will have difficulty believing any of the handful of untrustworthy narrators. When a novel opens with the line “The girl's body dangles from the tall iron gates guarding the school's entrance,” you realize that you are going to be in for a wild ride --- and Ellison does not disappoint.

"...[a] disturbing yet obsessively entertaining read. I encourage readers to pick up what may be Ellison's most addictive novel to date. While reading, I could not help but think that this page-turner would make a great film or miniseries."

In the very next chapter, readers are introduced to a young woman named Ash Carlisle.  She stands six feet tall, has stunning long blonde hair, speaks in an upper-class British accent, and is ready to take the Goode School by storm. She also brings with her more than a few secrets --- some will come out early on, while others will be part of surprising plot twists that will have your head spinning. Dean Westhaven agrees to allow Ash to enter the school under the name of Ash Carr. This is being done to protect her privacy as she was part of a tragic occurrence back home in London when both of her parents were killed. Her father was a victim of homicide, and when her mother found his body, she committed suicide. Ash was the first to find the bodies, and it is still a trauma she wishes to escape. Or so we believe.

As a result of this tragedy, Ash will be due quite an inheritance --- let's just tuck that thought away for a moment. Of course, any boarding school that contains the daughters of the rich and famous will come with some system of hierarchy, as well as prestigious secret societies. As a sophomore, Ash can only hope that she will be considered for membership in one of these groups. To do so, she will have to play the Goode School game to the fullest, and the first hurdle will be getting along with her suitemates. Unfortunately, Ash gets off on the wrong foot with her primary roommate, Camille; where Camille goes, so goes the other suitemates like Vanessa and Piper.

Still, Ash is tapped for a secret meeting with one of Goode's oldest societies, and has garnered the direct interest of Becca Curtis --- a senior and the senator's daughter --- also known as the head girl on campus. Ash knows in her heart that she is not secret society material, but readers will realize she is someone to be reckoned with as flashback chapters to her time in London show how she may have been behind the deaths of her parents. Let it be known that Ash could very well be the most devious mind of all at the Goode School --- and that is saying something!

One thing that does place Ash in a worrisome position is that she is unfamiliar with the local territory --- not just the Goode School, but the US in general, particularly the suburban area outside of Washington, D.C. in which she now finds herself. I had the opportunity to ask Ellison why she decided to make her central character a British expatriate, and she responded that she wanted Ash not only to be a fish out of water, but to not have the ability to cut and run if the tide turned against her. This was a capital idea, as my British mates would say, and really adds to the novel’s suspense and tension.

The first significant horrific event to hit the Goode School since Ash's admission there is the supposed death by suicide of Camille. Rumors abound that Camille was devastated over a personal issue that later appears to be an abortion that had not gone well. In addition, a whispered-about guilty party for the “father” of Camille's unborn child is a young man named Rumi, who the Dean uses for various work on campus and who also comes from a tragic family background. It is rumored that Camille may have been impregnated by her stepbrother, with whom she allegedly was obsessed.

Either way, the fact remains that Ash's roommate is dead. Readers are well aware that, as good as Ash has covered up her tracks, something about her could have been uncovered by a nosy roommate rifling through her belongings.

Things really begin to spin wildly out of control for Ash after Camille’s death, making GOOD GIRLS LIE a particularly disturbing yet obsessively entertaining read. I encourage readers to pick up what may be Ellison's most addictive novel to date. While reading, I could not help but think that this page-turner would make a great film or miniseries. Can you hear me, Netflix?

Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 10, 2020

Good Girls Lie
by J.T. Ellison