Author: Kristin Wolden Nitz
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Page #: 199
Source: From my public library
"Seventeen-year-old Jen is resigned to a less-than-thrilling summer helping her grandmother run the Schoenhaus, a Victorian bed-and-breakfast in the vineyards of eastern Missouri. But Grandma Kay's plans include more than housekeeping. She intends to solve a mystery from the past involving a beautiful and accomplished young woman: Jen's own mother, Ellen.
Ellen disappeared without a trace when Jen was very young. For years, she sent Jen gifts and letters in the mail. But then the communication abruptly stopped. Now Grandma Kay is convinced that the letters were forged - and that Ellen was murdered.
The stage is set for an elaborate Mystery Weekend at the Schoenhaus. Family members and friends - including Jen's very recent ex-boyfriend, her handsome 'uncousin,' and his annoying girlfriend - assemble and are assigned roles to play. But as the drama unfolds, Jen makes a startling off-stage discovery that arouses her worst suspicions. Could the person responsible for her mother's disappearance be someone she has loved and trusted her entire life?"
"'Really, Jen, is it too much to ask?'
I pressed my lips together. I hated that question. Dad only used it when my answering 'yes' would make me look selfish, inconsiderate, and completely unreasonable."
I've been known to say that there are not enough mysteries in YA lit. This is a book that is helping us get rid of this problem. It's a great mystery that has several levels - you have the Mystery Weekend that our main character plays a role in, and you have the real-life mystery of her missing mother. It's also the perfect size and topic for younger readers, but is good for older teens as well.
One thing I liked about this book was the setting - winery country has a lot of personality without much trying. I can imagine easily the Victorian bed and breakfast where people come for a mystery weekend. It sounds like a wonderful place. And it's better because you're seeing it through the eyes of a girl who has known the place her whole life.
You do have to watch out int he beginning because there are tons of names to learn really quickly. There are a lot of people called Aunt or Uncle, but are some other relation... it gets a little confusing. It also doesn't help that the names are all older (Dorothy, Beverly, etc). There are also lots of friends names and things that you only see for a second, but you're expected to remember who they are from an earlier mention. I had a little difficulty with all of that, apparently.
I did end up liking the main character. I love that she's super athletic and a bit more tomboyish. It's refreshing from all of the girly girls in many books. Now... there are a few things about her that kind of bothered me. Any time someone started discussing her missing mother, she has some sort of fainting spell or getting dizzy. No explanation. I do realize that it would be a big topic, but her mother disappeared when she was little - this story is years later. I would expect a different reaction instead of getting dizzy or fainting. That doesn't seem to be the reaction of a hard-core tomboy chick who can take anything. Just my opinion, of course.
Through all of those things, I still think this is a solid mystery that I never figured out the ending. I was surprised how it ended, but it made some sense. The ending did feel a little rushed, but for such a short book it felt fully finished. It's a good book for that middle grade reader looking for an almost chick lit mystery. Older mystery lovers will probably get a kick out of it. There's also a taste of romance as well to give you a little more depth. It's a good book.
I haven't read anything else by this author, but here is her website. It looks like she's written other books for children and has been really successful at it. :)
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