I've been thinking about mysteries lately. This is probably because the Arlington Reads program theme is going to be Arlington Reads a Mystery. (Yes, Arlington Reads is in February this year, but we librarians like to think ahead.)
One of my favorite mystery/thriller authors is Nancy Werlin. The first book of hers that I read was "Locked Inside." It's about an orphan at an upscale boarding school. Her mother, Sky, was a "superstar," and Marnie feels estranged from everyone around her because she hasn't figured our who she herself really is or how to deal emotionally with Sky's legacy.
Then, of course, she gets kidnapped, and while she is literally locked inside an empty basement, she has to come to terms with her emotional turmoil. Which is all good and well, assuming she manages to survive the experience!
The Next Werlin book I read was Double Helix, which had a lot of the same tension, with a Sci-Fi twist. Great plot, interesting characters, but I still didn't like it as much, because the anti-cloning message was a little heavy handed.
Which is why I was a little hesitant to pick up Werlin's newest, "The Rules of Survival." For one thing, even the cover blurb lets you know the book is going to deal with child abuse. How do you cover such a heavy issue without the message overshadowing the plot? But I liked the first book I'd read so much that I picked it up anyway. And within two chapters I was hooked.
It's one of those books where it is hard to tell too much without giving away the plot twists, but it is about Matthew and his two sisters and how they deal with their abusive mother and the various men in her life. I think what gets me is how real Matthew's emotions are -- right down to how much he resents his baby sister Emmy (the book is formatted as a letter to her) for her innocence, which she has only held onto because Matt himself has protected her.