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Whenever life gets overwhelming or I have a lot on my mind, I tend to fall back on reading mysteries. Maybe it’s because everything gets solved in 300 pages or because the plot will keep my mind from wandering. I’ve read three mysteries in the past few weeks and overdue for some reviews. In this post I’ll review Missing, PresumedThese Shallow Graves and The Girls in the Garden.

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner was highly recommended in a number of reviews and seemed to have all the right ingredients for a great mystery — female detective, missing young woman, case with few leads, England in mid-December. But even with the right ingredients, the way it all gets pulled together is also an important factor and this book just didn’t have it. I really enjoyed Sergeant Detective Manon Bradshaw and her messy life, online dating, strong friendships and desire to help an at risk boy after his older brother and protector dies. However, the case was too Gone Girl-esque for my taste. I’m wondering if this will be a start of a series featuring SD Bradshaw and I’d be willing to give the author another shot, but hoping the crime can be less trite with a less self-centered victim.

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly was $1.99 on Kindle and I figured what did I have to lose. These Shallow Graves is a historical mystery set in New York City and I found out later is really meant for the young adult category. Jo Montfort is a pretty girl from a wealthy and socially prominent family, but she aspires to greater things then parties and arranged marriages. She is drawn by the work of Nellie Bly and wants to be a journalist just like her. When her father dies suddenly, Jo is convinced there is more to the story than “an accident” and she begins to follow the trail of lies and deceit. Along the way, she hooks up with a young reporter, named Eddie, and a band of street kids who end up helping her solve the mystery. Overall it was a fun mystery, but a little long.

The Girls in the Garden was by far my favorite of the three mysteries I read. I have always been a fan of Lisa Jewell and was curious about what this mystery would be. Luckily, it still had all the tell-tale features of a Lisa Jewell novel along with an interesting “what the hell happened” (not truly a “whodunit”). Clare and her two adolescent daughters, Grace and Pip, move into a home in London that backs up to a private park for the residents surrounding the park. The park is both an oasis and a microcosm filled with age-old resentments and secrets. At the start of the novel, Pip finds Grace unconscious and bleeding after a summer party and the story begins to trace back the families move to the park and the mystery surrounding what happened to Grace.

After moving in, Grace quickly immerses herself with three home-schooled sisters along with Tyler, a troubled young girl with an absent mother, and Dylan who becomes Grace’s boyfriend. The three sisters have seemingly wonderful parents in Adele and Leo, but everyone seems either in love with or slightly wary of Leo, which makes him a frequent suspect along the way. Pip remains on the periphery as she doesn’t seem to trust this clique of kids. We also learn that the family moved to the park because their father had burned down their home during a psychotic episode and he is now hospitalized for treatment. Mix in the mysterious death of Phoebe 20 years earlier when Leo and Tyler’s mother, Cecelia, were young, and suspicions quickly arise.  I thought Lisa Jewell was at her best in this novel. The multi-layers of characters, the assumptions and slight crushes of both the adolescents and the adults made it a fun read. I don’t know that I’d necessarily categorize it as a mystery, but more of a novel with a mystery within it.

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