By Alafair Burke
Finding a new author that has given me a whodunit mystery that is so complex and interwoven that I'm still stumped until the very end, is a rare gift. I knew as soon as I started never tell that the author had that undefinable "edgy" feel to her writing that makes me tense, excited, knowing that I've picked a suspenseful winner to read!
Before I begin about the story, I want to highlight that there are a number of important issues about teens, drugs, sexuality, parenting, and schools that are at the basis of this story. Be alert to the interaction among each as you read and make sure you understand what is actually happening. In my opinion, if the story line is fiction, the reality of what is being introduced has been established to a small or greater extent. I applaud this author for choosing topics that are so attuned to what we must consider for the future of our children!
Ellie Hatcher is a cop with a past that sometimes interferes with her handling of a new case. All people would do this, but she had a partner who was willing to challenge her on it--and the guts to evaluate her own actions and willingness to work harder to be more open. But finding Julia Whitmire, a rich 16-year-old girl who initially presented as having committed suicide, even to leaving a message on her bed, was, to Ellie, an open-and-shut case. And she was ready to move on to other work...
Except that the girl's mother didn't believe she would kill herself. And the parents knew the right people to call to ensure that the case was handled as more than suicide... I thought one of the ironic points was that the parents had willingly left their daughter live alone, but then (guiltily?) were adamant that a murder investigation be held.
As the investigation begun, the normal first thing was to talk with school officials and students. However, the principal of the private school would not permit any type of at-school discussions, claiming that the incident had not happened on school property and they had no responsibility. With parents who knew few of their daughters friends or what she might have been involved with, they began to get some basic information from Ramona, her best friend. From her she learned that Julia was interested in knowing all types of people, so we meet Casey and later several other who lived either on the street or in a homeless shelter. Casey is not only implicated, but is assaulted by private investigators hired by Julia's father, We learn much about his life and is one of the brighter side of the novel's closure.
Each piece of evidence continues to lead the investigation further and further into the private lives of many people, including Ramona's mother who was writing an anonymous blog about her being abused when young and who, during the investigation, begins to receive death threat messages as comments to her articles! More and more individuals are pulled in--but not more than are reasonable based upon the investigation. That is, the twists and turns are relevant! Power, money and corruption strikes often!
The presentation of the characters was interesting in that readers learn in-depth information as presented. However, the story line is so well woven that we meet them based upon how and when they fit--impressive that the author was able to do this so seamlessly! Kudos to Alafair Burke for one of the finest I've read...I'll be looking for more from her in the future. My first reading of her novels has definitely made her one of my favorite authors... If you've also not read her, I highly recommend this one to begin. There is a series for Ellie Hatcher but the novel stands well on its own... Check it out and let me know if you agree with my feelings!