October 24, 2011

Monday Reviews: Mystery Mania!

Today I'm going to take a break from following our usual review format so I can squeeze in a trio of books that crossed my desk recently, all YA mysteries from Kane Miller Publishing.

Firstly, a treat that I devoured rapidly: the next two books in Canadian author Norah McClintock's Chloe & Levesque series (I reviewed the first two here). This would make a great mystery series not only for reluctant readers, but for anyone looking for a fast-paced murder mystery that's also got good ongoing character development. Narrator and budding investigative journalist Chloe Yan (who is, incidentally, half Chinese) is back, along with her police-chief stepfather Louis Levesque, in books 3 and 4: Scared to Death and Break and Enter. In the small town of East Hastings, sometimes it seems like everyone knows everyone else, but when the people you know start acting strangely—or when someone new in town starts stirring up trouble—the potential is ripe for mysterious goings-on. And, somehow, Chloe can't resist getting into the thick of things, even when her stepdad tells her to quit meddling.

In Book 4, this ultimately results in her life being in serious danger--the stakes aren't always minor in these books. And the author doesn't ignore the interpersonal difficulties that sometimes occur when you're the daughter of the chief of police in a small town, nor does she avoid the ongoing discomfort that Chloe feels at referring to Levesque as her father rather than her stepfather, a subtle issue that I really appreciated. While the focus is on plot in this series, issues of family, friendship, and personal growth are not ignored by any means. Though a bit light on backstory, they're very fun, and very skillfully written.

The third mystery I received was from Kane Miller Australia: Dying to Tell Me by Sherryl Clark, an author from Melbourne. This one had a bit of a supernatural element, as narrator Sasha is revealed to have some unusual extrasensory powers. When her family—that is, she, her dad, and her sister—move to the small town of Manna Creek to start their lives over after her mom left, Sasha is hoping she can leave her disturbing past behind her. But then some strange things start happening. Why does that falling-down shed in the backyard, which used to be the town's old jail cell in historic times, give her such a creepy feeling? Who's behind all the break-ins at the fancy rich people's houses? Why do so many people in this town act so weird? And why is Sasha suddenly able to communicate mentally with the new family dog, King? (If you don't care for books where people have a telepathic bond with animals, then this one might not be for you. Just sayin'.)

At first, Sasha thinks it's because, when they first moved to town, she slipped and hit her head. Maybe she's freaking out, or imagining things. Or maybe she really does have an unusual ability that makes her the only one able to really get to the bottom of the nefarious doings in Manna Creek. This one's another quick read with plenty of supernatural suspense for fans of paranormal fiction.

Review Copy Source: Publisher (Kane Miller) via Raab Associates Publicity.

You can find Scared to Death, Break and Enter, and Dying to Tell Me at an independent bookstore near you!


Colleen said...

I'm reading the CHLOE books right now also! Aren't they fantastic - exactly the sort of YA mysteries I wish there were more of out there. So well done.

Sarah Stevenson said...

I would have devoured these as a kid/teen. There wasn't much in terms of mysteries for younger readers once you were done with Nancy Drew/Nancy Drew Files and their ilk. I went straight from there to Agatha Christie, basically.

Beth said...

My teen daughter loves these and we frequently give them as gifts. I happen to sell them, along with 1,400 titles, but LOVE all the Kane Miller YA fiction. It is so high quality because our editor is amazing and spots fabulous books with ease.
I really hope there are more in the works. It would make Hannah's day!

Sarah Stevenson said...

They're definitely page-turners. I hope there are more in the works, too!

Kane Miller is releasing a nice variety of titles--I like getting the chance to read more works by Canadian & Australian authors.