Three friends unravel old secrets lurking beneath the surface of a picture-perfect town in this young adult mystery.
Fallon and her best friend, Blair, live in the town of Whitford, a “sort of old fashioned” place where “everyone knows everyone else.” Nothing ever goes wrong there, except for local 16-year-old girls’ penchant for drowning in Whitford Pond on their 16th birthdays. That is, nothing ever goes wrong until Blair, Fallon and their new friend Lila start investigating the drownings as part of a history project. Soon after the girls paddle out to the spooky island at the middle of the pond where its victims are buried, Fallon discovers that she’s related to the pond’s first victim: Elizabeth Mason, who was engaged to the prosperous son of the town jeweler before her supposed suicide in 1750. By poking around the town historical society and badgering Fallon’s lively grandmother, Nana, the girls realize that something sinister lurks beneath Whitford’s bucolic surface. It’s only when the trio heads to the fourth floor of Whitford’s public library in search of A Genealogy of the Noble Families of Whitford: A History that they realize their quest is putting them in danger. Blair and Fallon’s friendship feels comfortable and credible, although the addition of “exotic” Lila seems like a strained plot device rather than a real-life event. Indeed, much of the plotting is convenient rather than clever; the girls’ discoveries primarily result from pushing Nana to give them information or snooping around Nana’s house—and the developments that aren’t related to Nana are foreshadowed so heavily that they come as no surprise. Another distraction: Every time that the inhabitants of Whitford scream or emphasize a turn of phrase, Fredo uses capital letters. They’re are unnecessary, for example, when Fallon says, “I JUST HAD THE BEST IDEA EVER!”
Unanswered questions and heavy-handed writing drain intrigue from this not-so-spooky story.