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A special thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
LITTLE GIRLS by Ronald Malfi is a haunting tale of fear and horror, when a daughter and family are drawn back to her childhood home where unpleasant memories and secrets from the past, are re-surfaced.
Laurie, husband, Ted and daughter, ten-year-old, Susan return to the haunted like house (like The Addams Family), in Maryland to her estranged father’s house, (Mr. Brashear) who has died, after suffering from years of dementia and ultimately committing suicide.
Laurie has bad memories of her childhood. When she was growing up, she was forbidden to enter the room at the top of the stairs (the belvedere). Her father was evil and distant, with many rules. Her parents had divorced when she was not much older than Susan. She and her mother had left the house and Maryland to live with her mother’s family in Norfolk, VA. Even as bad as he was, she feels a little guilt about her prolonged absence from this life. She has not been back in years.
Returning to settle the estate, her dad’s demons are lurking and haunting them. Laurie thinks she is imagining things which memories began surfacing and wonders if she is losing her mind. From noises, spirits, loose boards, passageways, the greenhouse, the well, and strange things. What if his dementia was contagious?
Then there is her daughter’s new friend next door, Abagail, who resembles a little girl from years ago named Sadie Russ, who haunted her. She was friends with the little girl next door until she started having tantrums and fits. She would hit her and pinch her and all sorts of horrible gruesome things, who had like different personalities (some weird stuff). She bullied and threatened her. She died when she was eleven, and she was glad. Could she be returning as Abigail Evans for revenge? She has to protect her daughter.
On top of this, her daughter is giving her problems and her husband is unfaithful. Her husband thinks she has secrets as well, and wants her to come clean. A husband who infidelity forced her to reexamine herself, and a father who black unfathomable secrets were floating to the surface and the only thing which offered her solace at the moment was possibly she was wrong about the neighbor. Had her father done unspeakable things to little girls?
From hidden secrets to horror, as we learn more of the evil and twisted father for a paranormal twist.
Summary: Even though I love mysteries, thrillers and psychological suspense, not a huge fan of ghosts, horror, or paranormal, unless paired with intensity and emotion. Felt this one was lacking. An overused topic; returning to the childhood home. An opportunity to create something unique; however, lost its luster early on and never came together for me. I never felt the edge-of-your-seat suspense, depth, chill, or sizzle--as you would expect, in a novel of this nature; thereby, lacking the page-turner quality.