Ben loves the girl next door, but their story is a tragic one. Princesses in their tower to be hidden from the rest of the world is what Ben imagines life is like for Mira and Francesca Cillo, daughters of the an overprotective father who also happens to be the most influential man in their small town. The girls have always been put on a pedestal by everyone they know because of their beauty and their father’s authority, though people also whispered how strange it was they were so untouchable. Ben and Mira are at the beginning stages of their secret relationship when tragedy strikes and the girls’ cousin, Connie, dies unexpectedly causing them to completely withdrawal from the outside world. Now that Connie, their sangue– their blood, is gone and they have secluded themselves, all anyone can talk about it their strange demeanor. It’s still a shock when the girls turn up dead at the bottom of the quarry, a popular swimming hole for teenagers. Ben was left in the dark after Mira went completely cold to him, and now that she is gone, he is plagued by her memory. When a letter addressed to Ben comes a week after the girls’ bodies turn up, he receives the shock of his life to learn Mira wrote sent the letter before her death and has planted seven notes around town in significant places for him to find so he can learn what really happened. As Ben slowly uncovers the truth, he learns that what everyone thought was a tragic accident is a cover for dark secrets Francesca and Mira were hiding causing Ben venture down a dangerous path of suspecting people he has known his whole life.
When I saw the cover for this book, I instantly wanted to read it, though I will admit I thought the girl on the cover was pregnant and holding her belly. I figured out I was completely wrong pretty early on, and the cover just shows the hand of a girl or both girls grasping onto a watery dress that becomes significant in the story. I also knew I wanted to read the book because I really enjoyed Kim Savage’s other suspense novel, After the Woods. Pretty much any book that is dark and suspenseful, sign me up.
The book opens with the bodies of Mira and Francesca being dredged from the bottom of the quarry, so I was captivated from the beginning. Excluding the prologue, the book is broken up into seven parts to represent the seven places Ben touched Mira and also where she left his notes. Each part is told in present day from Ben’s POV and then flips back in time to Mira’s POV to better explain what is happening and to give more backstory. I don’t think I’ve read a book written this specific way before, so it was very unique and refreshing to experience.
The story takes place in a small town outside of Boston with a large Catholic Italian-American influence. The people there value their blood family above everything else in a very Sopranos sort of way. All of the character names are Italianesque, and there are even Italian phrases occasionally used. The author is very descriptive, so it was very easy for me to close my eyes and picture the town where this takes place.
It isn’t obvious exactly where the story will lead from the get go. As more and more gets revealed and Ben gets more suspicious, you think get thrown for a few loops. I had a general idea of what the twist was, but there ended up being more to it than I originally thought. While there is a mystery aspect, it isn’t so much a “who-done-it” versus a hauntingly sad story of two sisters who are very troubled. If you enjoyed The Virgin Suicides, you will most certainly enjoy Beautiful Broken Girls.
*Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me an advanced copy of this book.