The Roanoke Girls

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Published by: Crown
Release Date: March 7, 2017
ISBN13: 978-1101906668


After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran…fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.


“A gripping tale about the power and corrosiveness within families weighed down by the past…storytelling at its finest.”
The Associated Press

“A crime must-read to devour…”
Literary Hub

“…one of those captivating stories which make you ask for more from this talented author… an exciting read from a talented new voice in adult suspense.”
Mystery Tribune

“A debt to Daphne du Maurier is evident throughout this remarkably assured adult debut… you are also reminded of the theatrical domestic sagas of Tennessee Williams.”
Sunday Times

“With more twists than a bag of pretzels, this compelling family saga may make you question what you think you know about your own relatives.”

“Gripping…[a] gothic page turner…with revelations readers won’t soon forget.”
Publishers Weekly

“In her first foray into adult fiction, [Engel] creates a memorable cast of characters and a twisting, tangled plot that attracts readers from the first page…[an] atmospheric and unsettling tale of the secrets and bonds of family, set against the back-drop of small town Kansas.”
Library Journal

“A provocative thriller.”
Telegraph UK

“An emotionally captivating story.”

“I was immediately drawn into The Roanoke Girls, a haunting and riveting look at one family’s tangled legacy. You won’t stop reading until you’ve unraveled the darkest of Roanoke’s shocking secrets.”
Laura McHugh, award-winning author of The Weight of Blood and Arrowood

“This is a poised and haunting novel, whose enchanting prose belies its dark and intense subject matter. An evocative modern take on Southern Gothic, with a compelling twist which will remain with you long after the book’s last sentence.”
L.S. Hilton, New York Times bestselling author of Maestra

“An emotionally compelling page turner, The Roanoke Girls takes you inside the dark world of a twisted family and one woman’s fight to break free from the chains of her own history. This is family intrigue at its very best!”
Wendy Walker, author of All Is Not Forgotten


The setting for THE ROANOKE GIRLS came to me before anything else. My mother grew up in a small town in Kansas, and I visited it often as a child. The rhythms of small town life were fascinating to me, even then, and I knew I wanted to set a story in that part of the world. Once I had the setting, the character of Lane evolved pretty quickly. But it took a long time for me to figure out the exact story. I knew I wanted it to include a missing girl, suspense, and family drama, but the particulars were elusive. But one day the entire arc of the story came to me and after that I couldn’t write fast enough. The novel was darker than anything I’d written previously, and I discovered I enjoyed exploring those shadowy corners of the human psyche.



The first time I saw Roanoke was in a dream. I knew little of it beyond its name and the fact it was in Kansas, a place I had never been. My mother only ever mentioned it when she’d had too much wine, her breath turned sweet and her words slow and syrupy like molasses. So my subconscious filled in the rest. In my dream it stood tall and stately, tucked among a forest of spring-green trees. Its red-brick facade was broken up by black shutters, white trim, delicate wrought-iron balconies. A little girl’s fantasy of a princess castle.

When I woke, I started to tell my mother about it. Talking through a mouthful of stale Cheerios drowned in just-this-side-of-sour milk. I got only as far as the name, Roanoke, before she stopped me. “It was nothing like that,” she said, voice flat. She was sitting on the wide windowsill, knees drawn up into her cotton nightgown, smoke from her cigarette gathered around her like a shroud. Her ragged toenails dug into the wooden window frame.

“You didn’t even let me tell you,” I whined.

“Did you wake up screaming?”

A dribble of milk ran down my chin. “Huh?”

She turned and glanced at me then, her skin pale, eyes red-rimmed. The bones of her face looked sharp enough to cut. “Was it a nightmare?”

I shook my head, confused and a little scared. “No.”

She looked back out the window. “Then it was nothing like that.”