In Mangano’s debut mystery, a photographer returns to her hometown to investigate the death of her grandfather and ends up uncovering wicked family secrets.
Linden St. Clair returns to her hometown of Somerville, Calif., after the death of her beloved grandfather, who raised her after the deaths of her parents. The mystery surrounding his death only intensifies when Linden realizes her grandfather left her a journal belonging to his own grandmother who lived in czarist Russia. The diary contains the key to revealing some family secrets and, possibly, her grandfather’s killer. While the central plot twist (no spoilers here) is a little melodramatic, it works thanks to Mangano’s well-developed characters and airtight mystery. She clearly establishes connections between the past and present storylines and, for the most part, keeps straight the complicated relationships among the characters and their families. Linden is an appealing lead—a strong, smart, levelheaded stand-in for the reader as she unearths the “frightening truth.” The novel is certainly not perfect. The sections that take place in the past tend to drag, especially when limning complicated Russo-German relations. As the narrative moves toward its conclusion, revelations occur, occasionally requiring some rereading to follow the plot twists. Having so many important details delivered secondhand through characters who weren’t there to witness them sometimes grows a little tiresome. The mystery overall, however, is tense and suspenseful, as Linden tries to survive a “covert world…of crossing and double-crossing.” Mangano has deliberately ended the novel on a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving the door open for a sequel.
A twisty, complex murder mystery involving several generations of family.