The witness protection program isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in this YA thriller.
Shana O’Sullivan is a typical teenager with an atypical life. Her father, a powerful man with strong connections to the mob, crosses the wrong guy, and the O’Sullivans of Boston barely escape an attack on their lives. Turning to the FBI for protection, Shana and her family assume false identities and take up residence in a vacant (and creepy) house in the small town of Noxhelm, California. Shana misses home and struggles to fit in with her new classmates, though she makes friends with the girl next door and even develops a crush on a cute boy. Her small successes are negated when the boy is killed at his own party and Shana is identified as the prime suspect. Her involvement in the murder case puts her family’s safety at risk, especially since Shana is being watched by an unknown stalker who threatens to reveal her secrets. Blossman (Dregs Island, 2017, etc.) successfully mixes genres in her latest novel, using a haunted house (known as Ripper House) with a violent past as an engaging backdrop for her murder mystery. While trying to identify a killer, Shana is also cohabitating with the spirit of a dead girl who seems to need something from her. The author creates a strong protagonist in the character of Shana, who is an effective vehicle for moving the plot forward. She’s a teen with relatable problems whose family history and familiarity with violence mark her as singular. It’s entertaining to watch the unflappable Shana, unfazed by guns and murder, become thoroughly unsettled by a ghost. Ripper House is both the setting and a character, though it could benefit from a more thorough exploration of its construction and history. Real-world problems, such as a troubling new drug on the streets and the ramifications of social media use, intersect with a solid supernatural storyline. Unexpected narrative twists result in a surprising ending.
A satisfying whodunit with a supernatural flair.