The Sea of Lost Girls

TW: sexual abuse

Tess has worked hard to keep her past buried, where it belongs. Now she’s the wife to a respected professor at an elite boarding school, where she also teaches. Her seventeen-year-old son, Rudy, whose dark moods and complicated behavior she’s long worried about, seems to be thriving: he has a lead role in the school play and a smart and ambitious girlfriend. Tess tries not to think about the mistakes she made eighteen years ago, and mostly, she succeeds.

And then one more morning she gets a text at 2:50 AM: it’s Rudy, asking for help. When Tess picks him up she finds him drenched and shivering, with a dark stain on his sweatshirt. Four hours later, Tess gets a phone call from the Haywood school headmistress: Lila Zeller, Rudy’s girlfriend, has been found dead on the beach, not far from where Tess found Rudy just hours before.

As the investigation into Lila’s death escalates, Tess finds her family attacked on all sides. What first seemed like a tragic accidental death is turning into something far more sinister, and not only is Tess’s son a suspect but her husband is a person of interest too. But Lila’s death isn’t the first blemish on Haywood’s record, and the more Tess learns about Haywood’s fabled history, the more she realizes that not all skeletons will stay safely locked in the closet.

The Sea of Lost Girls is a tale of secrets, lies, and local legends.  Any mystery lover will be a huge fan of this novel by Carol Goodman. We are treated to a story that incorporates multiple mysteries that unravel at varying speeds over the course of the novel.  Without giving anything away, the book has plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes with a suspenseful atmosphere throughout.  Even the most seasoned mystery reader will struggle to predict the ending.

Our narrator is Tess, an English teacher at a boarding school in coastal Maine. We know little about Tess when we first meet her, but suspect that she is an ordinary woman living an ordinary life.  Tess, it turns out, is a deceitful woman.  She is living a life shrouded in mystery and half-truths, a life that threatens to unravel after the death of her son’s girlfriend.  Her son Rudy has issues of his own, causing him to be a social outcast in the tight-knit community they find themselves in.  When Rudy’s girlfriend is discovered dead on the beach, the first mystery begins as the community tries to unravel whether her death was a tragic accident or an act of malice.  

This mystery triggers others as the secrets surrounding Tess begin to slowly reveal themselves.  Tess is frantic to keep her secrets from spilling out all while dealing with the death that has so rattled her community.  Her secrets reveal themselves slowly, mainly through a sequence of flashbacks.  And as Tess does everything she can to keep her past in the past, she manages to unveil yet a third mystery – the truth behind the local legend of The Maiden Stone and a string missing persons cases, all involving young women who seem to vanish into thin air.

Our opinion of Tess as a narrator definitely changes throughout the novel – if she is lying to everyone she holds dear, how can we expect her to be truthful to us? This adds to the suspenseful feeling that only becomes more frantic as the story unfolds and more lies are uncovered.  I found myself staying up way too late just to see if my predictions were right (they were way off base).

I enjoyed this book a lot.  I read through it super quickly and found myself completely engaged in the plot. The way it is written keeps readers completely engrossed, waiting for the next secret to be revealed and the next clue to fall.  The Sea of Lost Girls is a complex thriller that is the perfect combination of complicated characters, multi-layered subplots, and unpredictable twists. You will be on edge until the final page, and the resolution will stay with you even after you close the cover. 

Hope you enjoy it! Talk to you soon!

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