Each of the three books here has a twist in the tail. They are all great yarns and provide lots of red herrings and dastardly characters to make solving the mysteries very challenging.
Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor. A newcomer to the town of Sycamore is exploring her new location when she comes across the remains of a young woman in the wall of a desert ravine. That young woman, Jess, had herself been a newcomer and her disappearance eighteen years before had been the subject of many theories and lots of gossip.
The story brings out the difficulties experienced by someone who joins an established and tight-knit community, and the added obstacles presented to a teenager who doesn’t fit the local mold.
As the writer traces the interconnectedness of about a dozen people, she acknowledges not only their grief and regret, but also the strengths of neighbours who know each other well. Even though Jess had been among them for only a year, her disappearance impacts everyone who knew her for the rest of their lives.
We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker. Vincent is being released from prison but the person who sent him there, Walk, still cannot forgive himself for testifying against him. Walk is a police officer and Vincent had been his best friend.
Walk and Vincent had a friend, Star, who now lives a self-destructive lifestyle. She also has two children, thirteen-year-old Duchess and five-year-old Robin, whom Walk regularly checks in on. As the story progresses, Duchess becomes increasingly protective of Robin and more defiant in shielding both of them from heartbreak.
The mystery at the heart of the story is whether or not Vincent actually did the crime for which he was sent to prison. It certainly looks that way, but as the circumstances change and new information comes to light, Walk wrestles with the possibility that he might have been wrong.
The book is appropriately titled because, at the end, I still wasn’t sure. I may have to go back and read it again.
Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner. This is another novel about siblings who protect each other and who have a dark and disturbing past. The very first sentence of the book sets the tone for suspense: “Had a family once.”
That is the voice of Sharlah, a thirteen-year-old who has been foster-parented by a retired FBI profiler, Quincy, and his partner, Rainie. Eight years before, Sharlah’s older brother Telly had saved both their lives by killing their drunken father. He, too, has spent the following years in foster care, but contact between the siblings was not permitted.
When a double murder occurs, Quincy and Rainie are brought in to assist in solving the crime. Soon it becomes apparent that Telly may have killed his foster parents and two people at a gas station. The question for them then becomes, why has he killed again? Is Sharlah at risk? For Sharlah the question is whether Telly is a hero or a villain.