Oct. 28, 2020
The Girls of Brackenhill
reviewed by Matt Pechey
Pechey Ponderings | Goodreads
When seeking a story with strong plot lines, stellar characters, and twists at every turn, look no further than the work of Kate Moretti. She uses these and other ingredients to keep the reader on the edge of their seat in her latest thriller, Girls of Brackenhill, where a woman is forced to return to her past in order to put her present in order. Recommended to those who need a surprise or two in their reading experience.
It was a call out of the blue that shocked Hannah more than anything. Her Aunt Fae had been in a horrible car accident and Hannah’s presence was urgently requested. Agreeing to take the six-hour journey, Hannah and her fiancé make their way to sort things out. Their journey takes them to Brackenhill, an isolated piece of property that locals call a haunted castle, but Fae and her partner call home. Brackenhill has a long and sordid history as being home to many mysterious goings-on over the years, which may be why the locals have given it such an ominous reputation. It is also the last place Hannah’s sister, Julia, was ever seen.
Once Hannah learns and comes to terms with Fae’s death in the accident, she must determine how to deal with her uncle, who has been clinging to life for a long while and still lives in Brackenhill. Hannah agrees to stay at on the property to put things in order. Though here, memories of the past come bubbling back to the surface. She recalls the summers when she Julia got into teenage trouble and finding love. However, after Julia went missing, Hannah left and never returned. It’s been seventeen years, yet for Hannah it seems like yesterday.
When Wyatt McCarran arrives at the door, another layer of Hannah’s past comes crashing back. While Wyatt is now a police officer investigating Fae’s accident, he was Hannah’s first love and the boy who broke her heart. Awkward and yet trying not to let it engulf them, Hannah and Wyatt seek to put the past in order while also deal with the issues at hand. This is further complicated when a jawbone is found on the Brackenhill property, leaving the possibility open that it could belong to Julia.
As Hannah spends even more time at Brackenhill, some of her troubled past comes to the surface and she begins to question much of her life over those summers. New mysteries emerge and Hannah is not prepared to ignore things, which proves troubling to many. Hannah learns more about some of the gaps she could not have understood as a teenager, though these prove to be more painful than she could have predicted.
Hannah’s troubles with sleepwalking return while she is at Brackenhill, causing her more grief than she could have imagined. While trying to settle her uncle as he slips into his final days, Hannah remains determined to discover what happened to Fae and how it may relate to Julia’s disappearance. Brackenhill may have a sordid history, but it is a handful of locals who hold the key to solving the mystery, each possessing their own piece of the puzzle. It’s up to Hannah to bring it all together before she falls apart!
Having read one of Karen Moretti’s novels before, I knew a little of what I ought to expect with this piece. That being said, there is a constant curiosity as to what the narrative will bring and how things will come together in the end. Moretti strings the reader along with some great work in two time periods, meshing them together effectively when needed to add impact to her work.
Hannah’s role as protagonist is obvious, but there is a lot about her that remains veiled in mystery. The reader slowly discovers what they need to know throughout the narrative, which splits between present day and flashbacks. This builds a solid foundation of backstory, though the gaps are plentiful, and the reader is forced to piece things together for themselves. Hannah’s growth in the present time hinges on her understanding of that past, as she reestablishes old connections and tries not to let them cloud her judgement.
Moretti’s use of supporting characters helps solidify the strength of the novel. The two timelines can be difficult to juggle while also being essential to understand the central plot. These characters both support Hannah in her discovery, as well as impede her on occasion. Moretti creates great development for all involved and injects effective banter to offer depth to her plot, without confusing the reader with too many threads to manage.
The story works well and builds throughout, using the two timelines to weave a strong foundation. There are moments the reader is thrust into the middle of one mystery, only to find themselves learning about another. The intensity of the narrative never dissipates thanks to Moretti’s use of short chapters. There’s no time to breathe, let alone put the book down, which adds to the allure. Mysteries intertwine and a set of characters leave the reader guessing about how Brackenhill might tie it all together. Those familiar with Moretti’s work and curious readers alike will take something away from this book, likely solidifying their desire to find more by the author in short order.
Kudos, Madam Moretti, for another strong piece. I can rely on you to always bring something unique to my reading experience.
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