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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

The Temple House Vanishing, Rachel Donohue: A Review

I usually enjoy boarding school mysteries. There's just something about big, old creepy buildings and the secrets they ultimately hold. Give me a synopsis for an Irish boarding school set on a remote cliff and a cold case, and I am sold. I couldn't wait to dive into this one.

When Louisa receives a scholarship to attend Temple House boarding school, she isn't prepared for the rancor and exclusion that comes with her enrollment. She soon finds an unlikely friend in Victoria, the smart but perpetually bored girl who delights in her rebellious persona. But then Louisa disappears with Mr. Lavelle, a young teacher at the school, and everything changes. Now, twenty-five years after their disappearance, a journalist is determined to unearth the truth of what happened.

I loved this book.

From the first chapter, Donohue's talent is evident. The prose is lyrical, captivating, and insightful. Several times I highlighted sections that struck me as beautiful, not just for the writing, but because of the emotion that it captured. The ennui and restlessness Victoria and Louisa feel jumps off the page and really encapsulates what it was like to be a young girl trying to find herself.

Stealing the show is Louisa and Victoria's friendship. Their relationship has all the elements I love best about toxic friendships. Jealousy. Obsession. Competition. On the one hand, they love each other. They're supportive and fierce in their loyalty. On the other, however, is this dark, unresolved competition: for attention, for independence, for desire to be special. Since this is told in alternating past and present, I kept trying to figure out how the breakdown would happen through the eyes of our journalist narrator.

Speaking of which, the journalist's ties to the case grounded the narrative. Where digging up cold cases can be seen as gimmicky, I related to her character voice and understood her desire to know the truth. She, too, embodies the atmosphere of nostalgia that works so well to drive the mystery.

At its core, The Temple House Vanishing is a novel about love and death, forming identities and the toll of secrets. I think many readers are going to find themselves engrossed by Louisa and Victoria and this insightful quest for answers.

Big thanks to Algonquin and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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