Book Review: The Sea of Lost Girls

Book: “The Sea of Lost Girls” by Carol Goodman
Publisher: William Morrow/HarperCollins
Release Date: March 3, 2020

Rating: [usr 4]


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.

[Synopsis from Goodreads]

Review: The Sea of Lost Girls

This gripped me from the very beginning. I couldn’t put it down. This book reminds me a lot of “The Woman in Cabin 10” and “My Dark Vanessa.”

It reminded me of “The Woman in Cabin 10” because you don’t know what’s going on. In Ruth Ware’s book, the lead character is either drunk or drugged. She doesn’t know what’s what and she’s trying to see through her drunken lens. In “The Sea of Lost Girls,” the reader is the one trying to see through the haze, because Tess (our protagonist) lies all of the time. Her story is constantly changing. You don’t know what the truth is until the very end and that’s because someone else is trying to tell you what really happened.

Each time the story is told, it changes just a little bit. You think you’ve heard the story already, but then it changes. You have to pay very close attention.

“My Dark Vanessa” deals with an inappropriate student/teacher relationship. In “The Sea of Lost Girls,” Tess runs off with her teacher after she finishes her schooling, because she is pregnant with his child. Then later, after she goes back to school (at 23), she ends up marrying her teacher. The first relationship was the really bad and abusive one. She ends up living on a remote island in a cabin with this teacher (Luther) and their son (Rudy). Luther is abusive to both of them. She doesn’t decide to flee until after she discovers that he is a serial pedophile, dismissed from 4 schools for inappropriate relationships with students. The girls were all much younger than Tess.

During their flight off of the island, Luther receives a head blow with a rowing oar. But who did it? Who killed him? That story changes as it goes.

There’s the story of Tess and her relationships, but there’s also another story involving the lost girls who went missing from this school/wayward home in Maine. In the 1960s, 3 girls disappear. One girl notes that these three disappearances are all linked to one person. Next, they find her dead body out by the Maiden Stone.

Fast forward to present day. Lila, Rudy’s girlfriend, is also discovered dead by the legendary Maiden Stone. Her death comes just hours after Rudy and Lila get into a fight. Lila’s death also occurs right around the time she discovers the identity of the Lost Girls’ murderer. Is her killer the same murderer? Is it Rudy? Or maybe it was Luther, back from the dead? Or maybe it was Tess’s husband who was helping Lila with her paper? Did one of them have an inappropriate relationship with Lila?

There are so many possible motives, so many lies spinning, you will not be able to tell who is telling the truth until the very end.

A very enjoyable read.

[Disclosure: I received a copy of an eARC from the publisher.]

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