In Damien Angelica Walters’s occult thriller The Dead Girls Club, there are some childhood secrets that can’t be outgrown.
When they were young, Heather and her best friend, Becca, were fascinated by all things dark and creepy. With two other girls, they formed the Dead Girls Club and met to exchange tales of serial killers. But the introduction of the Red Lady’s story––about supernatural vengeance, purchased at a steep cost––altered their meetings forever. And then Becca ended up dead.
Decades later, Heather’s worked hard to make up for the past. She’s married to a kind man and works as a counselor to troubled children. When Becca’s missing necklace turns up on her desk, followed by a sliver of the ribbon she was wearing in her hair the night she went missing, it shreds Heather’s neat existence. She’s left to wonder who else knows about her part in Becca’s departure, and whether they’re preparing to exact retribution of their own.
Psychological and disturbing, the story rips through sad reveals in its opening chapters, covering murder, abuse, and haunting memories. Only Heather and the audience know who Becca’s killer is; the full circumstances of her death are hidden until late.
There’s some melodrama and misdirection involved in the book’s progressions, though the dominant red herring leads to satisfying, scary scenes. Heather is a distressed but reliable narrator; her roiling emotions are palpable. Secondary characters are more subdued, in part because of the demons Heather’s wrestling during outwardly normal exchanges. Heartbreaking revelations jolt the book’s whispers of conjurings back to reality, and the ending is violent, cinematic, and just inconclusive enough to induce lasting chills.
In the frightening world of The Dead Girl’s Club, women’s lives are shaped by violence, but there may be a haunting way out.
Michelle Anne Schingler
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