Title: The Roanoke Girls
Author: Amy Engel
Published: March 14th 2017
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Rating: 3.5 stars
The Roanoke girls seem to have it all. But there’s a dark truth about them which is never spoken. Every girl either runs away, or dies.
Lane is one of the lucky ones. When she was fifteen, over one long, hot summer at her grandparents’ estate in rural Kansas, she found out what it really means to be a Roanoke girl. Lane ran, far and fast. Until eleven years later, when her cousin Allegra goes missing – and Lane has no choice but to go back.
She is a Roanoke girl.
Is she strong enough to escape a second time?
I have to confess I haven’t heard of the author of the disturbing novel The Roanoke Girls until now. Amy Engel is an established author for the YA and children’s book market. She has now turned her hand to adult fiction and her first novel for this genre is a dark thriller. I found The Roanoke Girls to be a real page turner, despite the disturbing subject matter.
Everyone in the small town of in Kansas knows the Roanoke girls are beautiful, tempestuous and guarded. There is a deep and dark secret hiding in the depths of the crumbling homestead of the Roanoke family. This festering family secret has resulted in the death and disappearance of the Roanoke clan. One of the Roanoke girls, Lane, is considered one of the lucky ones. When she arrived at her grandparents abode, after the shocking suicide of her mother, Lane didn’t last long at the estate. After discovering one of the shocking truths this family has worked hard to keep concealed, Lane decided to run as far away as she could from the darkness of her family. The past comes to catch up with Lane, when she receives word from her family, advising her that her cousin Allegra has disappeared. With no option but to help join in with the search for Allegra, Lane must confront her past head on and in the process locate Allegra.
A quote from author L.S. Hilton of Maestra fame (another very dark novel) pretty much sums up The Roanoke Girls. L.S. Hilton states The Roanoke Girls is ‘Dark and intense… with a compelling twist’. Hilton has captured the essence of this novel well, in just a simple quote. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to get with this novel, but it is very complex, creepy and disturbing.
For her first foray into the world of adult fiction, Engel seems to have staked her claim very well. There is commanding and authoritative tone to her writing. This is a novel with a confident approach. Engel knows what she wants to say and how she wants to say it. She is unafraid and willing to shock her readers. The shock value did pull me further into the shady waters of this novel well. For me, this book’s central mystery, the disappearance of Allegra, provided the addictive quality to the book. I also remained true to this novel, continuing to read on as I had to find out what exactly happened to Allegra. I just had to know if the perpetrator would get their just desserts and if Lane would finally break free from the curse of her disturbed family.
Engel is very good at scene setting. I have never been to Kansas, the main locale featured in this book, however, I did feel like I had been transported here by the author. The Roanoke homestead is depicted with a keen eye. It had a creepy, almost American gothic feel, which almost leaked out of the pages of this book. The atmosphere itself was intense and uneasy, which was maintained through the whole course of the novel. I definitely felt unsettled the whole way through this novel.
Engel’s skills in the character department are solid. Lane is very well drawn and I felt a swift connection to her from the opening. Likewise, I developed a bond with Allegra and genuinely hoped that she would be located. In addition, there are a range of outside characters who all contribute to the progression of the novel. I found Engel’s employ of a number of sections in the novel narrated by Roanoke family members, all women from times past, a fascinating plot angle. In addition, the inclusion of a Roanoke family tree at the very start of the novel proved useful.
I am not going to shy away from the fact that there are some confronting scenes and subject matter covered in this novel. It may get under the skin for some readers. I will confess it did shock me but I decided to stay with the novel. It pains me not to reveal more about this aspect of the novel, but I fear if I delve any further into this aspect of the novel, I may disturb the full reading experience this book has to offer to potential readers. It is worth your time to stay with this novel until the final round, despite the discomfort it may induce.
The Roanoke Girls is a gripping mystery novel about an eerie and disturbing family clan. Engel melds the past and present together, to present her readers with a novel which will be sure to leave a stain on your mind. The Roanoke Girls is a book that reminds us that we can never truly know what goes on behind closed doors and just sometimes the truth can be horrifying.
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel was published on March 14th 2017 by Hachette Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Roanoke Girls, Amy Engel, visit here.
*Book ‘e’ of the a-z author challenge 2018