I’ve had a ravenous appetite for mysteries this month — three Agatha Christies, one Mary Stewart, and the novels I want to share with you today.
My first offering is Kathleen O’Dell’s The Aviary (Sept ’11), a book categorized for the 8-12 crowd but certainly compelling enough for older readers. It hits so many of my gothic-geek buttons: an old, tumbledown house, a heroine who must stay indoors because of a heart condition, three adults who keep secrets from her, and a brash young girl who coaxes the heroine out of the house and into action. The mystery centers around Glendoveer Mansion and its menagerie of exceptionally long-lived and rambunctious birds. Clara Dooley lives at the mansion with her mother, another servant, and the mansion’s aged owner. Clara loves Mrs. Glendoveer, the widow of a celebrated magician, but has feared the birds all her life . . . at least until she finally notices they are trying to communicate with her. The more she speaks to them, the more words they acquire, and before long they are begging her to solve a decades-old crime that left the Glendoveers social pariahs. This novel is fast-paced and brimming with tension, yet also will bring to mind classic tales by Frances Hodges Burnett, C.S. Lewis, and Edward Eager.
Anyone with a penchant for YA mysteries with Noir heroines (á la Veronica Mars) really needs to get their hands on Kim Harrington’s Clarity and Perception. In Clarity (June ’11) we learn that Clare Fern comes from a “gifted” family — her mother reads minds, her brother speaks with the dead, and Clare herself can relive a person’s actions through the objects he or she has touched. Because her family makes a living from these gifts, Clare finds herself a social outcast — a situation that only worsens when she learns that her handsome and popular boyfriend has cheated on her. Further complicating matters is the fact that a classmate has been murdered, and her brother is the chief suspect. With nearly the whole town against her, how can she clear his name?
Perception (just released this month!) picks up where Clarity left off, and this time the mystery centers around a classmate who has gone missing. The police believe she left town by choice, but others, including the girl’s mother, suspect foul play. Clare aches to help — she knows her gift could prove useful on this case — but she is distracted by the unsettling overtures of a secret admirer. As the admirer’s actions verge into stalker territory, Clare isn’t sure whom she can trust. Ultimately, the missing girl and stalker stories converge in a thrilling finale that left me eager for more Clare stories.
Check out the trailer for Clarity (featuring the original cover):