Pros: Realistic characters, interesting structure for a mystery, quick and fun read
The Bottom Line: For mystery readers of almost any age, this is worth your time. It is meant for late middle and early high school readers, but the quality widens that range considerably.
Peter Abrahamss Behind the Curtain is the second Echo Falls mystery; the first is Down the Rabbit Hole. Mr. Abrahams writes mysteries for adults and young adults; he is far better with the second profession.
Ingrid Levin-Hill is still soccer star, aspiring actress, and basically an accidental, but willing sleuth. In the first novel, there was an implication that Ingrids brother Ty was using steroids. Behind the Curtain picks up this thread. In the process of determining what to do Ingrid is kidnapped. The problem is that the person who did it was so careful that, after Ingrids escape, there is no evidence of it. Not only is she fighting to solve a mystery but she is fighting the disbelief of everyone around her. As far as plot, this is all I am willing to give so that I dont ruin the plot, which is worth the journey.
Plot spoilers in the analysis
I loved Down the Rabbit Hole, but the fact that a 13 year old girl was involved in solving a murder was a bit of a stretch. The manner of telling the story and the language used made it work. But there is no denying that it was harder to swallow. It seems that Mr. Abrahams decided that for himself also. The mystery in this one is more pedestrian perhaps, but it is more fitting with the age range. Steroids are an endemic problem in sports and both Ingrid and Ty are into sports, particularly the brother, so that topic has two things going for it that beat the crap out of a murder: it is more common, and it has a different level of class than if it were other illegal drugs.
What struck me most about this installment is the way the mystery unfolds. With a murder or a theft or other discrete action, there is a definite beginning. That is not how an ongoing conspiracy works, particularly for one who discovers it after it is underway. So part of the mystery was discovering what the mystery was. With in the first score of pages in Down the Rabbit Hole when you know; in this novel, it is nearly a hundred pages (a third of the way through) before the reader can be sure.
From a storytelling standpoint it is an interesting choice. This way you have a chance to learn more about the characters. Since Echo Falls mysteries are likely to continue for a little while, this second novel can give us a better understanding of characters introduced in the first novel. This also means that the second book in a series, typically fairly weak, doesnt fall into the same traps set for other second novels. Perhaps this has to do with Mr. Abrahamss experience; whatever it is, it makes the read more mature than more run of the mill young adult work.
Rather than the standard red herrings in mysteries, Mr. Abrahams decides to add more than one mystery. To use the metaphor of the police chief; it is like working on one jigsaw puzzle that has pieces of another puzzle in it. I cant imagine this is unique, but it is the first time Ive seen it.
A warning to parents who prefer their young adults not exposed to foul language, Mr. Abrahams uses several but shies away from the two biggest; however if you prefer your YA novels without cursing, then unfortunately this otherwise fantastic novel would not pass muster. I must report that the language fits the situation naturally and makes it that much more realistic.
I recommend it for adults and young adults.
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About the reviewer
Paul Savage (cyclone_march)
I name and describe everything and classify most things. If 'it' already had a name, the one I just gave it is better.
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