Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Dead Girls Club

The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters
Crooked Lane Books: 12/10/19
eBook review copy; 280 pages
ISBN-13: 9781643851631

The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters is a so-so debut psychological thriller about secrets from the past.
In 1991 twelve-year-old Heather Cole and her best friend Becca Thomas formed a Dead Girls Club with two other girls. In the club Becca told the other's stories about serial killers and ghosts, but she especially focused on telling an elaborate ongoing ghost story about the Red Lady. Becca began to believe the Red Lady was real. The club ended when Becca died - by Heather's hands. A body was never found, but Becca's drunk, abusive mother went to prison for the murder.
Heather is now a child psychologist and has kept her secret for years, so she is shocked when someone sends her Becca's half of their "best friends" necklaces. No one knows what happened back in 1991, but now it seems that someone knows something, and they know Heather killed Becca. The anonymous "I know what you did" threats continue, and Heather panics and becomes obsessed with identifying who is trying to frighten her.
The narrative follows two different time lines: Heather's torment in the present day and the girls and ghost story in 1991. The 1991 flashbacks and the Red Lady story drags on and on far too long. We get it. We understand kids with secrets. I ended up skimming through much of the Red Lady stories because - whatever. The present day chapters, although more interesting to follow, basically just serve to highlight Heather's instability and obsession. While it is understandable for her to be shocked over receiving the necklace, that in and of itself proves nothing. Her immediate jump to assuming someone knows something rather than just throwing it away or, when another event occurs, contacting the police, makes absolutely no sense. Document and report the torment. Those friendship necklaces are nothing unique.
The character development is lacking. Heather's whole terror-filled inner torment over the fact that someone might know something almost thirty years later feels fabricated and falls short. We get no sense of her as an adult before we are subjected to her manic falling apart and making poor choices. I'm afraid I didn't feel any tension or terror building, rather I kept mumbling "call the police" while watching her mental breakdown. The ending... well, that clinched it for me and took the rating down. There are numerous better stories out there of childhood secrets coming out years after the fact.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crooked Lane Books.

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