Book: “Reckless Girls” by Rachel Hawkins
Publishing Info: St. Martin’s Press, January 2022
Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.
Book Description: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs comes 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 indication, 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.
Review: Travel to far off places (at least places that can only be easily reached by plane) is probably still out of the running for me and my family this year as we continue to deal with the pandemic (there’s always Northern MN!), so I will continue to live vicariously through books until things start to die down (or at the very least the kid gets her shots). And while this sometimes leads to a bit of FOMO, I try to tell myself that this isn’t forever and I will surely be visiting these places again in the future….. Hopefully. Well enter “Reckless Girls” by Rachel Hawkins, a book I got through Book of the Month that ended up being a perfect read for an isolated Minnesota winter weekend. Why not transport myself from a chilly house in the North to a tropical island in the Pacific, even if that island ends up being the location of some grisly outcomes and twisted secrets?
“Reckless Girls” has a trouble in paradise theme in which a supposedly idyllic getaway turns into something far more sinister, and even though it has sunlight, beaches, and gorgeous ocean, it has the foundation of a Gothic thriller due to the isolation and dark secrets that some of our characters are harboring. Our main character, Lux, is a bit of a fish out of water, a damaged woman who fell head over heels for a privileged but devil may care boyfriend named Nico, and followed him to Hawai’i thanks to the promise of sailing the world together. But he has foregone his connections and resources to his wealthy family out of stubbornness he sees as noble, and she has to bear the brunt of his pride. So when two college girls named Brittany and Amma approach Nico with an offer of substantial cash to take them to an atoll called Meroe with a buzzed about paradise like backdrop (and a notorious history), Lux, intimidated by their magnetism but desperate for her new start, agrees to go with all three of them. When they arrive and find a flashy couple has already dropped anchor, the two groups start to enjoy their freedom. Hawkins slowly builds up the getaway, showing the present through Lux’s perspective, but giving us background and clues to impending danger through flashback chapters following the other characters, who all are hiding something from everyone else. Hawkins lays out all the clues in a masterful way, and she paces out the slowly building drama and tension with soapy twists that make the entire read very, very hard to put down. Seeing all of these characters interact with each other, grow close to each other in a superficial way like only a vacation can do, and then start stabbing each other in the back, is deeply enjoyable. I figured out a few of the twists and turns, but there were others that were surprising, and even those that I did guess were still fun to get to within the plot.
I also really liked the setting. As I said above, while it’s bright, sunny, and tropical, Meroe Atoll is a deeply isolated and unnerving setting. Hawkins slowly creates a backstory for the island as well, through excerpts from books, texts, emails, and other correspondence, and other epistolary bits that let you know that this place, while beautiful, is unforgiving. I was looking this place up to see if it was real (it’s not; there is an island called Meroe but it’s out by India, not a couple days sail from Maui), as Hawkins made it sound so real with the world building she does for it. I loved how creepy it was once our characters were there, as even though the descriptions were pretty standard, the very thought of being so alone and cut off from everything is very upsetting, especially as stakes start to get higher and survival is becoming more murky for some of our characters. I mentioned it was a bit Gothic, and it has the elements of people slowly going a bit unhinged due to paranoia, distrust, and the sheer unforgiving seclusion of the location. The location really stands out.
“Reckless Girls” is a fun thriller that you should definitely check out if you like the genre. It may make you wish for a tropical trip, but at the same time you may be thanking your lucky stars this isn’t the vacation you are taking any time soon.
Rating 9: Super addictive and compelling with a lush and unsettling backdrop, “Reckless Girls” is a fun thriller and tangly mystery.
“Reckless Girls” is included on the Goodreads lists “And Then There Were None: Deadly Parties”, and “Down By The Sea”.