Set at a private school in a small Delaware town, Stein’s mystery is as much about how a murder investigation affects people as it is about solving the case.
Nell Walker, the new psychologist at the prestigious Grainger School, discovers the body of student floating in the stream once called Brainwend Kill. She’s drawn into the crime, despite it triggering traumatic memories of a horrific murder and the image of a child’s dead body that accompanied it. Suspicions run rampant as secrets hidden by more than one faculty member become part of the investigation. Rydal Keene, a blind 11-year-old Grainger student, heard voices at the time of the murder, one of which could have been the killer’s. Detective Jason Sheffield aims to solve the case, although he’s not the only one. He’s determined to discover the hidden truth, but he might be taking his assumptions too far; he oversteps his bounds, while sexual tension and emotions among the suspects further confuse the investigation. Clues, leads and plot twists abound, as Stein threads the plot through solid characterizations on route to a climactic final scene. Yet Stein includes too many superfluous details that don’t contribute to the story; they only dissipate the dynamic tension of the quickly developing plot. There’s a well-maintained balance of real-world believability and literary license, though, which Stein generally upholds to satisfying results. Even with the sexual tension, this whodunit should appeal to a wide range of ages.
A rollicking mystery, but don’t expect any spectacular brainteasers or subtle clues between the lines.