Roanokegirls“Roanoke girls never last long around here.” She skipped along the hall, her voice growing fainter as she moved, like we were standing at opposite ends of a tunnel. “In the end, we either run or we die.”  Allegra, The Roanoke Girls.

Disturbing and intriguing in equal measure, this novel has the power to haunt readers. Responding to a family crisis, Lane finds herself revisiting a dark corner of her adolescence, the summer she spent at her grandparents farm in Kansas.

This dark novel alternates between “then” and “now.” The chapters called “then” deal with Laney’s sixteenth summer. A New Yorker who recently lost her Mom, Laney instantly feels at home among the Roanokes. She thinks they are the family she always wanted.

The chapters that take place in the present hint at something dark and unnatural that occurs in the house. Cooper, Laney’s on-again, off-again boyfriend often wonders what goes on in the Roanoke house.

Yates, the head of the Roanoke family, is possibly the most nefarious literary character ever invented. He preys upon the Roanoke girls’ vulnerability. His charm and genuine love for them only make his actions worst.

Gran, though, is a close second. Her actions are almost incomprehensible.

Despite the fact that it is a thriller, the pace can be frustrating. Readers know pretty early on what is happening to Allegra, yet no one confronts Yates until near the end.

The clues are nicely placed. Allegra carves words into surfaces, a kind of diary for others to read.

In the end this is a gripping read but also extremely unsettling.

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