The Good Ones – A High School Friendship Goes Horribly Wrong

Nicola Bennett grew up in a small Appalachian town in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Although raised by a single mother, Nicola excelled in high school, won a full scholarship to college, earned a graduate degree at Yale, and taught at small colleges all over the country. Twenty years later, she’s in between appointments and comes back to Tyndall County to sell her mother’s home. She’s forced to confront tragedies from the past, specifically the disappearance of her friend, Lauren, whose body was never found. Nicola feels guilty because she set into motion events that may have led to Lauren’s abduction and possible murder. Once she begins investigating, she receives warning notes and believes her own life is in danger.

Polly Stewart (Photo Credit: Laura Dillon Rogers)

Polly Stewart’s The Good Ones will strike a chord with anyone who looks back on high school with angst. Beautiful, smart, athletic, and narcissistic, Lauren was Tyndall’s queen bee, manipulating and humiliating the girls, and taunting and teasing the boys. She married Warren, oldest son of a wealthy, established family. While Lauren’s disappearance made national headlines and became a focus for true crime fanatics, those closest to her didn’t mourn her fate. 

Stewart’s narrative ping pongs between Nicola’s high school days and present time. While Nicola was always viewed as the good girl, she was not squeaky clean. Hoping to thwart one of Lauren’s plans again Jessi, the one indigenous girl in the school, she executes a prank that backfires. And after Lauren’s abduction, she gives evidence to the police causing them to wrongly target Jessi’s father as the killer. He later is found dead in the lake. An accident? Suicide? No one ever knows, but Nicola never forgets.

Nicola’s relationship with Lauren was complicated. While she knew Lauren was mean, even evil, she couldn’t help but be attracted to Lauren and, on several occasions, lured into one of her queen bee schemes. Back in her hometown, Nicola finds herself attracted to Warren, and reconnecting with Warren’s brother, Sean. Both were investigated and cleared in Lauren’s disappearance. But Nicola begins to wonder if they were given a pass because of their family connections.

Lauren’s daughter, Mabry, seems to approve of Nicola sleeping with her father, making the situation even more uncomfortable. When Mabry asks for help with her application to Julliard, Nicola obliges. And when Mabry asks to visit the house where her mother was last seen, Nicola agrees to that, too. After Mabry finds a diamond earring embedded in a floorboard, Nicola lies and says she found the piece of jewelry. That discovery triggers a police investigation and gets Nicola even deeper into the unsolved mystery.

Residents are puzzled about Nicola’s return and by her preoccupation with Lauren’s disappearance, even setting up a website to track interest in her classmate’s fate. She can’t resist asking if anyone else checking the site has a connection with Tyndall County and is shocked when she receives a response from her former girlfriend, Erika. The two had been in a relationship when they were at college, Erika a resident adviser, and Nicola, a student. Their breakup was emotional and messy. Nicola hasn’t heard from Erika since. Even though Erika says she’s now married with a child, Nicola can’t resist reaching out to her about Lauren.

Stewart’s novel is more than just a mystery. It’s also an exploration of loss, regret, revenge, and the complicated nature of women’s friendships. The Good Ones will resonate with a large audience.

The Good Ones
Polly Stewart

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About Charlene Giannetti (705 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.