In the summer of 1964, 16-year-old Cady Andrews is unexpectedly sent out into the world from the Canadian orphanage where she grew up, determined to become a reporter.
She’s armed with just a single piece of information about her own mysterious past, a newspaper clipping that shows the vandalized gravestone of a young man, Thomas Jefferson, from Orrenstown, Indiana. Convinced that the story this tidbit might reveal will get her published, Cady takes the bus south. McClintock uses this intriguing clue to take readers on a sensitive exploration of the appalling, racially motivated prejudice that inflamed even northern areas in the mid-20th century. Thomas, a black man, was sentenced for murder and then shot in the back while supposedly escaping from prison. Cady asks questions everywhere; it quickly becomes obvious that there has been a coverup, but of what? Her plucky demeanor adds plausibility to her determined quest; the seething menace of some in the village increases the sense of peril. A minor quibble is that Cady’s first-person narration sometimes strays toward authorial. Phrases like “with a cluck of annoyance” and “weathered…disapproval with aplomb” are sprinkled throughout the otherwise teen-typical prose. The more Cady learns from her unerring investigative persistence, the more horrific and revealing the story—a fictionalized version of grim reality—becomes.
This entry in the Secrets series embeds a tragic past within an engrossing mystery—masterfully. (Historical mystery. 11-18)