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  • Small town mystery/touch of Gothic horror ambience

    'Don't Tell a Soul' by Kirsten Miller is a modern thriller with a hint of Gothic horror atmosphere about a house that's believed to be cursed and small town stories centering around a series of young women referred to as 'the Dead Girls.' Bram is a teenage girl with a tough story of her own. Rocked by scandal and an unbearably complicated family situation, she finds herself in a small town on the Hudson called Louth. Taken in by her uncle, she settles into the rose room at his stately manor. Unfortunately, he's struggling with his own problems.. the loss of his dear wife in a tragic fire that people say was set by her daughter and the destruction of half the house he'd restored with plans of opening an inn. Pretty much from the moment Bram arrives in Louth, it seems like the locals don't want her around. There's this whole 'us vs them' vibe that's common in small towns.. where even if a family has lived in the area for a long time.. there's no historical ancestry and that deems them outsiders. Miller did a great job conveying that imposing unease of everyone knowing your business and many of the locals have quirks that make them seem a bit off. Though I knew within moments of her arrival at the manor where a good chunk of the blame was going to lie, I'm relatively certain that was due to the kind of media I like to consume and my own cognitive leaping skills. In fact, the author seemed to work hard to throw misdirects in the reader's path.. frequently.. and I think others may find a surprise or two along the way. There's definitely a love of lost girls and ghost stories on display in this book and I enjoyed the paths Miller chose to take us down for the most part. I think what's scary about the story is that it could literally be ripped from the headlines somewhere.. though some plot points seem a bit exaggerative, I've read stranger truths. Nolan is probably my favorite character in the book and I loved Maisie too. I think they both had a lot of potential in their backstories which I would have loved to see more of.. but they were clearly just side characters as the story really focuses on Bram. Either way, they added a wonderful burst of color and texture to this wintery, gray tale. While it's not quite as robust or eloquent as 'Rebecca' or 'The Woman in Black,' fans of similar types of soft, Gothic ambience should enjoy this book. It was a quick read, that never got dull and there are plenty of puzzle pieces for those like myself who are adept at figuring out the mysteries before they're revealed. (I received this title as an ARC. All opinions are mine and freely given.)

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