Published by William Morrow on March 3, 2020
Source: the publisher
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In the tradition of Daphne du Maurier, Shari Lapena, and Michelle Richmond comes a new thriller from the bestselling author of The Lake of Dead Languages—a twisty, harrowing story set at a prestigious prep school in which one woman’s carefully hidden past might destroy her future.
Tess has worked hard to keep her past buried, where it belongs. Now she’s the wife to a respected professor at an elite boarding school, where she also teaches. Her seventeen-year-old son, Rudy, whose dark moods and complicated behavior she’s long worried about, seems to be thriving: he has a lead role in the school play and a smart and ambitious girlfriend. Tess tries not to think about the mistakes she made eighteen years ago, and mostly, she succeeds.
And then one more morning she gets a text at 2:50 AM: it’s Rudy, asking for help. When Tess picks him up she finds him drenched and shivering, with a dark stain on his sweatshirt. Four hours later, Tess gets a phone call from the Haywood school headmistress: Lila Zeller, Rudy’s girlfriend, has been found dead on the beach, not far from where Tess found Rudy just hours before.
As the investigation into Lila’s death escalates, Tess finds her family attacked on all sides. What first seemed like a tragic accidental death is turning into something far more sinister, and not only is Tess’s son a suspect but her husband is a person of interest too. But Lila’s death isn’t the first blemish on Haywood’s record, and the more Tess learns about Haywood’s fabled history, the more she realizes that not all skeletons will stay safely locked in the closet.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Sea of Lost Girls has a very catchy beginning that hooked me right away. Tess gets a call from her teenage son, Rudy, in the middle of the night asking her to come pick him up. The situation surrounding why he wants to be picked up is suspicious, considering his clothes are wet. We quickly learn that her son’s girlfriend has been found murdered close to the area where Rudy was picked up and for a minute there, Rudy looks guilty.
His stepfather looks guilty too. So do a couple of the other people in the story. In fact, there are so many twists and turns to this story, I changed my mind about what happened to Lila probably a dozen times. On top of all of that, Tess seems to be covering for some people by telling lies while also hoping other people are guilty. So I didn’t really feel like I could trust her 100% as the story unfolded.
I love the way the book pulled me in as a mother who has three children that are similar in age to Rudy. What a horrific position to be in, having to pick up your child in the middle of the night, under suspicious circumstances! I also really liked the atmospheric and foggy tone this story had, since so much of it took place down by the water, near the forest. I also loved that it was paced so quickly, with short chapters. I always wanted to keep turning the pages to find out more, more, more information. I think there are a lot of characters with a lot of backstory, so I found myself confused in a few parts, trying to sort out different characters’ personal histories and how they crossed paths with Tess and Rudy and poor Lila. I wasn’t entirely surprised by the way everything ended up, although I wouldn’t have been able to say for sure it would and that way because of the twisty path it took to get there.
Also, this is random, but I love the way different classical novels were brought up throughout the story (The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter, for example). I love the classics so much so it was fun to see their themes incorporated in this narrative.
I think people that enjoy quick, suspenseful, twisty stories may like this one as well as readers who enjoy the boarding school setting.