As She Left It, by Catriona McPherson (2013)

Genre: Mystery
Interest Level: Adult
As She Left ItA puzzle wrapped in an enigma, this mystery takes its time to take hold, but once it does you won’t put it down. Slated for a summer publication, I obtained an early e-version from NetGalley. Opal Jones left her mother’s home when she was 12 years old, no longer willing to sit by while her mother slowly destroyed her life with alcohol. Ten years later, we find Opal returning to her childhood home, six weeks after her mother’s inevitable death, far too young. The house and furniture are unchanged, and even the neighbours are the same. It’s a hot and steamy summer, the memories weigh heavily on Opal, and she decides to shake them off by focusing on a local mystery. Margaret and Denny’s little grandson Craig disappeared soon after Opal left as a preteen – apparently snatched off the street. Opal soon learns nearly everyone on her block is keeping secrets about the event, and about much more. She discovers another mystery in the bedposts of her new-to-her bed (bought to replace the one her mother left), and because three feels better than two, she also decides to unearth the family of her jazz-playing neighbour Fishbo. Despite threats and a break-in, she vows to uncover the truths that others mean to keep hidden. Soon, it becomes clear it means exposing her own secrets as well. McPherson’s writing style is a treat. She has set the story in her native England, and Opal is a working-class heroine who shrugs off obstacles like lack of Internet access and cellphones. As a result, this has an odd dichotomous feel to it: Opal’s world is technology-free when it comes to solving the mystery, but her job is to fill the requests of online shoppers. Still, the story gets under your skin, and I enjoyed Opal’s plucky attitude and determination to right the wrongs she sees around her. Stick with this one and let it unfurl.
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