Heather Cole has used the time since her best friend died at age 12 to distance herself as much as possible from that terrible night. She’s a child psychologist now, with a loving husband and a new set of friends. But, at the beginning of Damien Angelica Walter’s The Dead Girls Club, the arrival of a mysterious package ruins all her progress. From the moment that Heather sees the other half of a best friends forever necklace, long repressed memories come rushing back and Heather is sent spinning out of control. Are long-buried secrets finally coming out?
The Dead Girls Club runs along two tracks. The first track follows present day Heather as she desperately searches for the source of the “gifts” that keep arriving: the necklace, her friend’s ribbon, and worse. The second track takes us back to when Heather was 12 years old and part of a tight quartet of friends who like to tell each other about serial killers and other gruesome things. The trouble, we learn, begins when Becca—the friend who died—starts to tell stories about a terrifying witch called the Red Lady. This second track shows us just how tightly the bonds of friendship can bind people together, but with the added, horrible twist of a friendship gone toxic.
Both tracks of The Dead Girls Club keep ratcheting up the tension. As I read it, I wondered if the Red Lady was real and if the girls had summoned up something that should have been left to the dark ages. Heather wonders, too. Like a lot of good horror novels, this book carefully treads the line between supernatural horror and chilling but explicable events. Heather is more inclined to think that the Red Lady is haunting her once more, even as she tries to find rational explanations for things. The terror of the Red Lady stories still has a strong hold on her, decades later.
The Dead Girls Club could have used a little more editing. There are a lot of extraneous details that don’t need to be in the text. (For the first couple of chapters, we get descriptions of what every characters is wearing and a lot of asides to add backstory.) Once I got past those first chapters, and really got into the story, I was completely hooked on Heather’s story. My heart ached for her as her veneer of sanity was ripped away and all the memories she’d repressed came roaring back. The conclusion of this book is perfect and unexpected; I loved the way this scary story ended. I also enjoyed what The Dead Girls Club had to say about unreasonable promises and deep friendship and trust. This really was a fantastic read.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration.