Good Girls Lie

Image of Good Girls Lie: A Novel
Release Date: 
December 30, 2019
Reviewed by: 

“J. T. Ellison skillfully unwinds a complex tale of lies, deception, and murder spiced up with backstory and well-fleshed out characters.”

J. T. Ellison's newest book is jam packed with everything a reader could want in a boarding school mystery. A generations old hilltop campus with ivy covered brick walls surrounded by horse farms, stone fences, and charming cottages. Snooty rich girls, cryptic myths, secret societies, scandal, centuries old traditions. A forbidden staircase leading to a haunted attic where babies’ bones were found in the wall. A pretentious clique that owns the campus, a bully who pulled the wings off butterflies in her mother's garden, and a mysterious new student who says her name is Ash Carlisle.

Readers won't know what to make of her. Ash is lovely and polite with glowing skin and blond hair, a practiced manner, and a smile she's perfected in a dingy bathroom mirror. Who is she? Where did she come from? Who are her parents? Is her family wealthy and influential with serious pull? What is she up to? Is that really her name?

And how did she even get into such a prestigious prep school?

After all, the elite Goode School for girls takes only the best and the brightest, the cleverest, the smartest, the richest. Hand selected girls with huge potential and a spectacular future ahead of them.

The girls of the Goode School are good. And they always tell the truth.

Here's Ash talking to the driver who picked her up from the airport and is delivering her to campus. She tells him she's from England, and he asks if she's ever met the queen:

"We go to the same church in the countryside. Have you ever heard of Sandringham? There's a beautiful little stone church there, with a graveyard that dates back to the 1300s. They—the Queen and her husband, I mean—spend much of their time in the country, especially now they've been handing over duties to the younger members of the royal family. We saw them only last week."

Not a single word of what she said is true. Ash Carlisle has a long way to go if she expects to make it all the way to graduation day at the Goode School for girls.

A flashback in chapter 14 gives readers a peek into her childhood. She didn't come from a happy, loving family, and it got worse after her four-year-old brother drowned when Ash was six. She swears she didn't hold him under:

"I don't think my father cared for me much before the accident, though his animus after was legendary. He expected decorum at all times; I was a wild, rough-and-tumble girl child who liked to set fire to the curtains and tear apart the ancient silk and wool rugs with my rollerblades . . ."

But Ash isn't the only one with secrets.

Dr. Ford Julianne Westhaven, former student and now reluctant headmistress of Goode school, hadn't planned to still be doing this in her thirties. What she secretly wanted was to be a writer. But tradition stood in her way:

"A Westhaven has held the top position since the school opened, in the early 1800s as an Episcopal-run home for wayward girls. Girls who needed to disappear. Girls who'd disgraced themselves and their families. Girls who would have otherwise ended up in bawdy houses, as prostitutes, or worse. Decidedly not Goode girls.

"And so it went, generation to generation, a matriarchal line who took it upon themselves to educate the daughters of the land. . . . Seven generations committed to carrying on the school, its mandate as an all-female powerhouse, and the Westhaven name, of course. . ."

And then there's that young man who secretly comes to her bedroom now and again:

"He slinks in the door. . . No words needed, no foreplay, no candles and roses. Just raw, hot desire . . ."

And when it's over?

"There is no cuddling. They sit at the table, refreshed drinks in their hands . . . She asks about his day. . . . He finishes his drink, tossing it back, gives her a long, searching kiss, then leaves . . . his whiskey-tinged breath lingering on her lips as the door shuts behind him. . . .

"If anyone knew, she would be in so much trouble."

Oh, yes, and there's plenty more trouble ahead.

J. T. Ellison skillfully unwinds a complex tale of lies, deception, and murder spiced up with backstory and well-fleshed out characters. Good Girls Lie is an engrossingly sinister tale that grabs you from the very first page that starts out like this:

"The girl's body dangles from the tall, iron gates guarding the school's entrance."

Happy reading.