Don’t Tell a Soul by Kirsten Miller
People say the house is cursed.
It preys on the weakest, and young women are its favorite victims.
In Louth, they’re called the Dead Girls.
All Bram wanted was to disappear—from her old life, her family’s past, and from the scandal that continues to haunt her. The only place left to go is Louth, the tiny town on the Hudson River where her uncle, James, has been renovating an old mansion.
But James is haunted by his own ghosts. Months earlier, his beloved wife died in a fire that people say was set by her daughter. The tragedy left James a shell of the man Bram knew—and destroyed half the house he’d so lovingly restored.
The manor is creepy, and so are the locals. The people of Louth don’t want outsiders like Bram in their town, and with each passing day she’s discovering that the rumors they spread are just as disturbing as the secrets they hide. Most frightening of all are the legends they tell about the Dead Girls. Girls whose lives were cut short in the very house Bram now calls home.
The terrifying reality is that the Dead Girls may have never left the manor. And if Bram looks too hard into the town’s haunted past, she might not either.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED JANUARY 26TH, 2021
Most characters run from ghosts, but Bram Howland runs toward them.
Fleeing Manhattan and the controlling grip of her mother, Bram heads to Louth to stay with her Uncle James in his half-burned mansion. In the wake of a house fire that killed his wife, a house fire apparently set by his step-daughter, he’s not the uncle that Bram remembers. Without her uncle’s help, Bram must explore the truth behind the manor, dodging cagey Louth locals and vicious rumors at every turn. The Dead Girls of Louth are waiting for their stories to be heard.
And maybe even waiting for Bram to join them.
Don’t Tell a Soul is sharp, even prickly, and perfect for the height of winter.
Opening in a snowstorm swirling around the half-burned mansion, this book sets its tone immediately. Everything about it is cold and crisp, and it layers itself in one shadow after another. And like the environment, Bram is equally chilly and sharp, clutching box cutters in her pockets and constantly weighing the depths of her trust for others. From the very first page, you cannot trust anyone but Bram.
You must not.
It’s a critical facet of horror, this ability to heighten the sense of setting, and I’m always pleased when I can report that a book has done it well. Don’t Tell a Soul toys with all manner of smoldering wreckage even while lakes and rivers freeze over in a glittery sort of wonderland, forming a tiny riverside town with secrets tucked into every single shadow.
“The truth always got buried along with the girls.”
More important than the setting, though, is the plot of the book. I don’t often read horror, so when I make an exception, I want it to throw every punch full force. Thankfully, Don’t Tell a Soul understands how rumor flies in small towns, how scandals twist to take looming, threatening lives of their own. And more than that, it knows how to spin the bones of a ghost story at the same time as it brews approaching, so very real danger. Even as the pieces of the Dead Girls of Louth come to light, the tension never quite relents. Bram wades through nearly two centuries’ worth of ghosts while trying to put her own to rest, and it takes the full sum of the book to put it all to bed.
As a result, Don’t Tell a Soul is a phenomenally fast read. This is probably why it played such a strong role in busting my reading slump last week. The pages keep turning, the answers keep coming, and yet the questions remain, darker than ever.
Additionally, this book manages to take horrors of past and present and tie them together. Grace Louth, the first Dead Girl, and Bram Howland are closer than they could ever know, and theirs stories touch along unsettling parallels. This rings true for the other Dead Girls, too. Bram and her sharp, wary nature are the key to everything that this town has hidden over the years.
If you can handle horror sometimes more realistic than paranormal, read this book.
At times, the topics can grow heavy; there’s no denying that. If you’ve read this far and want to give Don’t Tell a Soul a try, I recommend you read the content warnings I’ve listed below. And if you’ve done that and still want to pick this book up, you don’t have to wait long! Next Tuesday, January 26th, Don’t Tell a Soul makes it way onto shelves. You still have time to place a pre-order or library request, if those options are within your means, and before long, this book will be here, all wrapped up in bitter winter chill.
Are you ready to meet the Dead Girls of Louth?
CW: loss of a loved one, suicide, drug use, addiction, overdose, underage drinking, gaslighting, domestic abuse, alcoholism, rape, animal death