cover image The Outcast Girls

The Outcast Girls

Alys Clare. Severn, $28.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7278-9045-0

Early in Clare’s chilling sequel to 2019’s The Woman Who Spoke to Spirits, Georgiana Long, a teacher at Shardlowes, a girls’ boarding school in the English fens, arrives one winter day in 1881 at the London office of Lily Raynor, the proprietor of World’s End Bureau, a private enquiry agency. Three students have run away on separate occasions in recent months, and Georgiana, who doesn’t trust the police, wants Lily to investigate. Intrigued, Lily agrees to fill a temporarily vacant staff position at Shardlowes in order to do so. Lily has her lone employee, Felix Wilbraham, look into the school’s secretive benefactors, the Band of Angels, and he pursues a trail that leads to Scotland. Shifts between Lily’s inquiries and Felix’s help jack up the suspense. The two capable and self-assured leads stand in contrast to such stock secondary characters as the ambitious headmistress and the caretaker too fond of his whiskey. Descriptions of the bleak winter landscape of the fens (“the naked trees like skeletal limbs clawing up at the grey sky”) lend atmosphere. Anne Perry fans will want to check this out. Agent: Sophie Gorell Barnes, MBA Literary (U.K.). (Dec.)