From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs comes Reckless Girls, a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set on an isolated Pacific island with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.
When Lux McAllister and her boyfriend, Nico, are hired to sail two women to a remote island in the South Pacific, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. Stuck in a dead-end job in Hawaii, and longing to travel the world after a family tragedy, Lux is eager to climb on board The Susannah and set out on an adventure. She’s also quick to bond with their passengers, college best friends Brittany and Amma. The two women say they want to travel off the beaten path. But like Lux, they may have other reasons to be seeking an escape.
Shimmering on the horizon after days at sea, Meroe Island is every bit the paradise the foursome expects, despite a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. But what they don’t expect is to discover another boat already anchored off Meroe’s sandy beaches. The owners of the Azure Sky, Jake, and Eliza, are a true golden couple: gorgeous, laidback, and if their sleek catamaran and well-stocked bar are any indications, rich. Now a party of six, the new friends settle in to experience life on an exotic island, and the serenity of being completely off the grid. Lux hasn’t felt like she truly belonged anywhere in years, yet here on Meroe, with these fellow free spirits, she finally has a sense of peace.
But with the arrival of a skeevy stranger sailing alone in pursuit of a darker kind of good time, the balance of the group is disrupted. Soon, cracks begin to emerge: it seems that Brittany and Amma haven’t been completely honest with Lux about their pasts––and perhaps not even with each other. And though Jake and Eliza seem like the perfect pair, the rocky history of their relationship begins to resurface, and their reasons for sailing to Meroe might not be as innocent as they first appeared.
When it becomes clear that the group is even more cut off from civilization than they initially thought, it starts to feel like the island itself is closing in on them. And when one person goes missing, and another turns up dead, Lux begins to wonder if any of them are going to make it off the island alive.
I received a complimentary ARC of this book through NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press.
I picked this book up after a recommendation from another reader, and I was not disappointed. As the blurb says, Nico and Lux are hired to sail two women, Brittany and Amma, to Meroe, a remote deserted island, for an adventure on Nico’s boat, The Susannah.
But when they arrive in paradise, they find they are not alone. There is a luxury catamaran already anchored with two occupants, Jake and Eliza.
At first, things are wonderful. The six people get along great and are soon best of friends, sharing the beauty of the island, extravagant meals courtesy of Jake and Eliza, and hours of swimming, drinking, sunning, and exploring.
The island, once used as a staging area during World War II, has a dark history. A ship’s crew trapped there had to resort to eating the bodies of the dead in order to survive. When the men were finally rescued, out of 32, there were only 8 still alive.
This is the first hint of foreboding in the story. But that part of the island’s history was so long ago, none of the characters pay much attention to the legend that the island is haunted, even though they discover the abandoned airstrip, along with a human skull.
Each character in the story has baggage, which the author does a great job of revealing in bits and pieces throughout the story. Nico and Jake have one thing in common. They both come from extremely wealthy families. Brittany and Amma appear to have grief in common. And Lux is dealing with her own grief after the death of her mother from cancer. The biggest mystery is Eliza who is the epitome of perfection.
However, the arrival of another man, Robbie, starts the decline of all the relationships. There is something sinister about him and Lux has a confrontation that leaves her rattled and shaken. It isn’t until he disappears that Nico and Jake find their radios smashed and the group now cut off from any communication with the outside world. Boundaries are crossed and trust destroyed.
And that’s just the beginning of the mounting tension.
I like how the author shifts between timelines throughout the story, giving the reader glimpses into each character’s past. These are done in snippets, so there is never info dump and never so much told that the reader has the whole picture.
It isn’t until the end of the story that everything becomes crystal clear with a string of dead bodies left behind. The book comes to a satisfying, if somewhat jaw-dropping conclusion, and is a quick entertaining read.
This is an intricately woven psychological thriller that will be released in January 2022. If you love a story that transports you to a beautiful dream location, standing out in stark contrast to deadly motives, you will devour this story as I did. Thank you, Mae Clair, for recommending it!