How exciting to be a part of the Winter Blog Tour for Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison.
Title: Good Girls Lie
Author: J. T. Ellison
Format: Kindle ARC
No. of Pages: 384
Date of Publication: December 31, 2019
My Rating: 5 Stars
Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.
In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.
But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.
J.T. Ellison’s pulse-pounding new novel examines the tenuous bonds of friendship, the power of lies and the desperate lengths people will go to to protect their secrets.
It is called The Goode School. A driving force behind the school is the strict code of honor. Only daughters of the well-to-do are privileged to attend. Girls that graduate from what is also called a Silent Ivy go on to be doctors, lawyers, politicians. How is it, then, that the school has become tainted?
Who is this the student that has changed the environment? It is someone the school's dean admitted, Ash Carlisle, or more accurately Ash Carr? Who is she? Why did Dean Westhaven allow her to become part of the school's student body?
Shockingly, a body is found hanging from the iron gates guarding the entrance at the school? Who is it and why are some girls heard to be practically chanting, Ash, Ash Ash?
What a way to start Good Girls Lie! From this point on in the book, the story starts being delivered in multiple viewpoints and at breakneck speed.
There are leading chapter headings such as The Lies, The School, The Arrival and The Dean. These first several chapters deliver a fantastic setup for what turned out to be a thrilling story of secrets, lies and much, much more. And, as entertaining as this book was, it is easy to see why this book was impossible to put down. As a matter of fact, any book read by J.T. Ellison, whether singly, or co-authored with Catherine Coulter, has proven to be a winner for me.
It has been a while since I have read a principle character with an unreliable narrator, and Ash fit that to a "t". The deeper the story got, the more convoluted it became. This compelling story led to an amazing conclusion. Another job-well done for one of my favorite authors.
Many thanks to Mira, NetGalley and Edelweiss for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.
Please enjoy the following excerpt:
The girl’s body dangles from the tall iron gates guarding the school’s entrance. A closer examination shows the ends of a red silk tie peeking out like a cardinal on a winter branch, forcing her neck into a brutal angle. She wears her graduation robe and multicolored stole as if knowing she’ll never see the achievement. It rained overnight and the thin robe clings to her body, dew sparkling on the edges. The last tendrils of dawn’s fog laze about her legs, which are five feet from the ground.
There is no breeze, no birds singing or squirrels industriously gathering for the long winter ahead, no cars passing along the street, only the cool, misty morning air and the gentle metallic creaking of the gates under the weight of the dead girl. She is suspended in midair, her back to the street, her face hidden behind a curtain of dirty, wet hair, dark from the rains.
Because of the damage to her face, it will take them some time to officially identify her. In the beginning, it isn’t even clear she attends the school, despite wearing The Goode School robes.
But she does.
The fingerprints will prove it. Of course, there are a few people who know exactly who is hanging from the school’s gates. Know who, and know why. But they will never tell. As word spreads of the apparent suicide, The Goode School’s all-female student body begin to gather, paying silent, terrified homage to their fallen compatriot. The gates are closed and locked—as they always are overnight—buttressed on either side by an ivy-covered, ten-foot-high, redbrick wall, but it tapers off into a knee-wall near the back entrance to the school parking lot, and so is escapable by foot. The girls of Goode silently filter out from the dorms, around the end of Old West Hall and Old East Hall to Front Street—the main street of Marchburg, the small Virginia town housing the elite prep school—and take up their positions in front of the gate in a wedge of crying, scared, worried young women who glance over shoulders looking for the one who is missing from their ranks. To reassure themselves this isn’t their friend, their sister, their roommate.
Another girl joins them, but no one notices she comes from the opposite direction, from town. She was not behind the redbrick wall.
Whispers rise from the small crowd, nothing loud enough to be overheard but forming a single question.
Who is it? Who?
A solitary siren pierces the morning air, the sound bleeding upward from the bottom of the hill, a rising crescendo. Someone has called the sheriff.
Goode perches like a gargoyle above the city’s small downtown, huddles behind its ivy-covered brick wall. The campus is flanked by two blocks of restaurants, bars, and necessary shops. The school’s buildings are tied together with trolleys—enclosed glass-and-wood bridges that make it easy for the girls to move from building to building in climate-controlled comfort. It is quiet, dignified, isolated. As are the girls who attend the school; serious, studious. Good. Goode girls are always good. They go on to great things.
The headmistress, or dean, as she prefers to call herself, Ford Julianne Westhaven, great-granddaughter several times removed from the founder of The Goode School, arrives in a flurry, her driver, Rumi, braking the family Bentley with a screech one hundred feet away from the gates. The crowd in the street blocks the car and, for a moment, the sight of the dangling girl. No one stops to think about why the dean might be off campus this early in the morning. Not yet, anyway.
Dean Westhaven rushes out of the back of the dove-gray car and runs to the crowd, her face white, lips pressed firmly together, eyes roving. It is a look all the girls at Goode recognize and shrink from.
The dean’s irritability is legendary, outweighed only by her kindness. It is said she alone approves every application to the school, that she chooses the Goode girls by hand for their intelligence, their character. Her say is final. Absolute. But for all her goodness, her compassion, her kindness, Dean Westhaven has a temper.
She begins to gather the girls into groups, small knots of natural blondes and brunettes and redheads, no fantastical dye allowed. Some shiver in oversize school sweatshirts and running shorts, some are still in their pajamas. The dean is looking for the chick missing from her flock. She casts occasional glances over her shoulder at the grim scene behind her. She, too, is unsure of the identity of the body, or so it seems. Perhaps she simply doesn’t want to acknowledge the truth.
The siren grows to an earsplitting shriek and dies midrange, a soprano newly castrated. The deputies from the sheriff’s office have arrived, the sheriff hot on their heels. Within moments, they cordon off the gates, move the students back, away, away. One approaches the body, cataloging; another begins taking discreet photographs, a macabre paparazzi.
They speak to Dean Westhaven, who quietly, breathlessly, admits she hasn’t approached the body and has no idea who it might be.
She is lying, though. She knows. Of course, she knows. It was inevitable.
The sheriff, six sturdy feet of muscle and sinew, approaches the gate and takes a few shots with his iPhone. He reaches for the foot of the dead girl and slowly, slowly turns her around.
The eerie morning silence is broken by the words, soft and gasping, murmurs moving sinuously through the crowd of girls, their feet shuffling in the morning chill, the fog’s tendrils disappearing from around the posts.
They say her name, an unbroken chain of accusation and misery.
There are truths, and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened, which is where you and I will meet. My truth is your lie, and my lie is your truth, and there is a vast expanse between them.
Take, for example, Ash Carlisle.
Six feet tall, glowing skin, a sheaf of blond hair in a ponytail. She wears black jeans with rips in the knees and a loose greenand-white plaid button-down with white Adidas Stan Smiths; casual, efficient travel clothes. A waiter delivers a fresh cup of tea to her nest in the British Airways first-class lounge, and when she smiles her thanks, he nearly drops his tray—so pure and happy is that smile. The smile of an innocent.
Or not so innocent? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. Soon.
She’s perfected that smile, by the way. Practiced it. Stood in the dingy bathroom of the flat on Broad Street and watched herself in the mirror, lips pulling back from her teeth over and over and over again until it becomes natural, until her eyes sparkle and deep dimples appear in her cheeks. It is a full-toothed smile, her teeth straight and blindingly white, and when combined with the china-blue eyes and naturally streaked blond hair, it is devastating.
Isn’t this what a sociopath does? Work on their camouflage? What better disguise is there than an open, thankful, gracious smile? It’s an exceptionally dangerous tool, in the right hands.
And how does a young sociopath end up flying first class, you might ask? You’ll be assuming her family comes from money, naturally, but let me assure you, this isn’t the case. Not at all. Not really. Not anymore.
No, the dean of the school sent the ticket.
Because Ash Carlisle leads a charmed life, and somehow managed to hoodwink the dean into not only paying her way but paying for her studies this first term, as well. A full scholarship, based on her exemplary intellect, prodigy piano playing, and sudden, extraordinary need. Such a shame she lost her parents so unexpectedly.
Yes, Ash is smart. Smart and beautiful and talented, and capable of murder. Don’t think for a moment she’s not. Don’t let her fool you.
Sipping the tea, she types and thinks, stops to chew on a nail, then reads it again. The essay she is obsessing over gained her access to the prestigious, elite school she is shipping off to. The challenges ahead—transferring to a new school, especially one as impossible to get into as The Goode School—frighten her, excite her, make her more determined than ever to get away from Oxford, from her past.
A new life. A new beginning. A new chapter for Ash.
But can you ever escape your past?
Ash sets down the tea, and I can tell she is worrying again about fitting in. Marchburg, Virginia—population five hundred on a normal summer day, which expands to seven hundred once the students arrive for term—is a long way from Oxford, England. She worries about fitting in with the daughters of the DC elite—daughters of senators and congressmen and ambassadors and reporters and the just plain filthy rich. She can rely on her looks—she knows how pretty she is, isn’t vain about it, exactly, but knows she’s more than acceptable on the looks scale—and on her intelligence, her exceptional smarts. Some would say cunning, but I think this is a disservice to her. She’s both booksmart and street-smart, the rarest of combinations. Despite her concerns, if she sticks to the story, she will fit in with no issues.
The only strike against her, of course, is me, but no one knows about me.
No one can ever know about me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
With millions of books in print, Ellison’s work has been published in twenty-six countries and fourteen languages. Her novel THE COLD ROOM won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original. Her novels FIELD OF GRAVES and WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE were each a RITA® nominee for Best Romantic Suspense. She is also the author of multiple short stories.
Ellison grew up in Colorado and Virginia. After graduating from Randolph-Macon Woman's College and receiving her master's degree from George Washington University, she was a presidential appointee and worked in The White House and the Department of Commerce before moving into the private sector to work as a financial analyst and marketing director for several defense and aerospace contractors.
After moving to Nashville, Ellison began to research her hidden passions, forensics and crime, and was compelled to begin writing down her stories. To research her books, she has worked with the Metro Nashville Police Department and the FBI, as well as performing autopsies and studying survivalists.
In 2012, Ellison teamed up with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter to co-write a new FBI series. The first book, THE FINAL CUT, released in September of 2013 and hit every major bestseller list. The series continues with THE LOST KEY, THE END GAME, THE DEVIL'S TRIANGLE, and THE SIXTH DAY. The next installment will be published in Spring 2019.
Ellison published her first standalone novel, NO ONE KNOWS, a Nashville-based domestic thriller, in 2016 with Gallery Books, followed by the critically acclaimed LIE TO ME, published in 2017 with MIRA Books. Her newest standalone, TEAR ME APART, will be published on September 18, 2018.
She also has co-written with Erica Spindler and Alex Kava on two anthology collaborations: SLICES OF NIGHT and STORM SEASON.
J.T.'s interests go beyond writing books—she publishes them, too. In 2015, Ellison founded her own independent publishing house, Two Tales Press, which features spine-chilling short stories and novellas, including THE FIRST DECADE and DEAD ENDS. An avid oenophile, Ellison teamed up with her right-hand, Amy Kerr, to launch The Wine Vixen, a wine review website focusing on all varietals and price ranges.
In 2015, Ellison was named a cohost of the Nashville literary television series A Word on Words. The series was hosted by respected journalist John Seigenthaler for more than 40 years and remains a favorite among viewers. The rebooted show builds on Mr. Seigenthaler’s distinguished legacy with an exciting new version of the literary series. The show won its first Emmy for Best Interstitial in 2017. Follow #keepreading for more updates on the show guests and lively literary discussions.
She also has an active following on Twitter @thrillerchick and Instagram @thrillerchick, and has a robust Facebook community.
She lives with her husband and twin kittens in Nashville, where she enjoys fine wine and good notebooks.
Contact J.T. Ellison
This is my Review of the Month for the book review link-up on LovelyAudiobooks.info.