Print Length: 400 pages
Publisher:  Avon Books UK (June 23, 2022)

From Goodreads.com: A little girl in a white nightdress stands out in the snow, watching the large brick house burn before her eyes…

My name is Lucy Townsend.

I was born on Friday the thirteenth, and I was the thirteenth girl living in the big house. Unlucky for some.

But I was the fortunate one. I escaped. The only one who made it out alive.

And now, twenty years after that fateful night, the secrets of the past and what happened in that house are pulling me back.

I might not be so lucky this time…

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My Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The premise of this one caught my attention immediately.  How did Lucy come to be living at a house with 12 other girls? What started the fire and why was she outside when it happened? 

Sadly, once I started reading it there was a lot left to be desired. To begin with, when we meet Lucy she is an adult. She is married and has just found out she's expecting her first child. Right off the bat, I found it hard to connect with her because she just doesn't care. About anything. Well, other than pleasing her husband who immediately comes across as an emotional abuser, but that's neither here nor there at this point. She hates that she's pregnant (kind of understandable later on), but doesn't consider terminating the pregnancy. Doesn't go out of her way to hide it (I mean she tries, but if she seriously didn't want him to know she would have made sure ALL evidence was gone and not have left something so obvious laying around). 

Then we meet Marshall and his parents (one of whom is a prominent government figure), and it's easy to see that Lucy is cowed by the lot of them. She's struggling to change herself to meet their ideals and is miserable about it. It immediately comes across as one of the spoiled, rich boys marries a girl from the wrong side of the tracks troupe. And to top it off she's apparently not been entirely honest with him about her past. But obviously, they at least like her a little bit right? 

WRONG. 

Suddenly, Lucy finds out that details of her childhood have been made public. Details that she herself struggles to remember - like the fact she was a part of a cult. Like the fact that her mother was accused of kidnapping (among other things). That she was the sole survivor of a massive fire at the house they were all living in. As soon as these details are made public, Lucy is the one shamed. Lucy is the one accused. What? She was SEVEN when she was found dressed only in her nightgown, outside in the snow on the night of the fire. How could she remember any of that, much less have been a party to anything that took place? 

But of course, that provides just the reason for Marshall and his family to pack her up and ship her off to a cottage in parts unknown until the scandal dies down. Parts unknown CONVENIENTLY being right where the ruins of the old cult home are. Close enough that she can make multiple trips out there to "see what she can discover" although just what she thinks she's going to find years later (and after a police investigation would have removed anything relevant that the fire didn't destroy is beyond me). But she goes. She gets hurt, she ends up in hospital. Or so she thinks. 

And that is when the book completely fell apart for me. 

Up until then, I was somewhat invested (I say somewhat because I still wasn't connected to any of the characters in a way that made me care about them, but I was interested to see where the story was going). But once I got to the second half of the book it seemed like the author forgot what she was doing. Instead of it being this "ghost in the shadows" kind of novel we find out that not only did some cult members survive, but they are now deluded enough to kidnap a pregnant woman believing her child (who has nothing to do with the cult or the singular male member) to be some sort of messiah. 

Now obviously, I don't understand how cults work, but to me, to go from one that worships the moon and is entirely made up of females who want to shirk the rules "the patriarchy"  has placed on them, it is both utterly ridiculous and utterly inconceivable that a MAN would be able to infiltrate them so thoroughly that he then takes over and does whatever he wants (including forcing them into prostitution and declaring they now worship the sun god instead). I mean seriously? 

But going back to the story, there was just too much ridiculousness happening for me to take any of what came next seriously (even though the author went above and beyond on the details, a little too above and beyond in my opinion as I felt the second half more or less dragged on in a lot of places, especially where it came to the mistreatment of Lucy - honestly I'm pretty sure the author hated her and enjoyed torturing her). I am expected to believe that members of this cult have not only existed all this time, but somehow managed to stay under the radar and live.... underground? I mean sure their new age "health and beauty" product line was believable, but everything else was not.

And then the ending. While I admit I can UNDERSTAND why she did what she did. And while I APPLAUD her for standing up to Marshall, I HATE the other choices she made. Even if for the character they made a bit of sense. 

In the end, I do think there will be a lot of people who enjoy this one more than I did. And I would definitely give this author another shot down the road because I see what they are capable of and I think they have the potential to be AMAZING. 

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.

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                                      The Thirteenth Girl  is available on Amazon.com