Teen gumshoe Jess Tennant investigates the mysterious circumstances surrounding a local boy's "accident."
When Seb Dawson suffers a head injury and is left for dead on the side of the road, Jess smells something fishy. The police, led by her ex-boyfriend's father, aren't asking the right questions, so Jess takes it upon herself to uncover the motives behind Seb's attack. The tiny town Jess lives in supplies the author with several red herrings and subplots that lay the groundwork for future Jess Tennant novels. This works as both a pro and con: The sheer number of characters complements the whodunit atmosphere well at first, but it's hard not to get bogged down after a while keeping everyone straight. Recollecting who's related to whom and who's got a feud with whom will have some readers scribbling down notes on scrap paper, and the mystery's reveal may feel hardly worth the effort in hindsight. It’s a great big world the author's constructed here, but the book’s actual plot feels thin by comparison. The investigation is coupled with Jess’ pining for her ex, a central-casting hunk with little personality. The book could easily be cut down by a quarter and lose nothing of value, but the final pages intimate that this relationship will be an important factor in the series going forward. Here’s hoping it deepens in complexity.
A perfectly serviceable potboiler. (Mystery. 12-16)