On the Bookshelf...

Broken Girls

Nicky Downes

Her mother will be furious when she finds out. She knew it was risky to come here alone. But it was too hard to resist. A chance to live like a normal teenager, to have a good day for once. And now it will be her last… When teenager Leia Thompson drops dead in a shopping mall of apparent natural causes, Detective Jaqueline ‘Jack’ Kent is the only one convinced something isn’t right. Why was Leia at the mall alone? Why are there scars – old and new – all over her body? Visiting Leia’s mother, Jack quickly realises that she controlled every aspect of her daughter’s short life, home-schooling her and moving town every few months. At their house, Jack finds a room crammed with records detailing the teenager’s complex medical history right from the moment of her birth. A sinister picture starts to emerge in Jack’s mind – of a mother capable of hurting her own child. When another girl dies in similar circumstances, the only thing that seems to connect the victims is their youth and frail health – and Leia’s estranged father. He emerges as their prime suspect until the girls’ autopsy reports come back with sinister similarities, and Jack’s attention turns to the doctors who treated them. Then somebody close to the case is found dead, and Jack starts to feel like she’s losing control. More will die if she doesn’t catch the person responsible soon. Can she work her way through this web of dark secrets and chilling motives before the killer strikes again?


Broken Girls by Nicky Downes is my first book by this author. It's also the second in the Jack Kent series. I was very impressed by both the plot and the writing style. A story with a difference in that it involves the medical abuse of young girls. Not your usual story matter.

Jack Kent is called to the scene of a sudden death of a fifteen-year-old girl in a shopping mall. Alerted by her pathologist friend Shauna that there's more to this case, Jack dives into the murky world of medical ethics. At the same time a member of her team is in court preparing a case involving a rape (the previous books plot?)

Jack Kent is an interesting character. Openly gay she's also something of a celebrity climber as well as a police officer. She's methodical, caring and runs a very close-knit team. There's lots of small plots in the story which I think we'll find more about in future books. The storyline is harrowing, the thoughts about what happened to Leia and the suffering she went through are the worst. Her mother Gail was so complicate in her suffering you wonder why it wasn't picked up sooner.

A terrific addition to my author list, Nicky Downes is an author with a superior take on policing. I must find the first book to find out what I missed, but this book does stand on its own. I've given a few 5 tower awards out this year so far, but this is a worthy contender for the highest I can give. Read in two sessions, I can't praise it higher.

Thanks to NetGallery and Storm Publishing for an eArc copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Review by
AJ Steel
January 31, 2024

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