Being a teenager is much harder than people think. It isn’t just school, dates, hanging out with friends at the mall, and dealing with your parents. For 15 year-old Kelly Amster it’s far worse. She wants to be accepted by the popular crowd, she wants nice clothes, she wants to go to all the good parties, and she’s determined to change herself enough to get those things. But her richer schoolmates have no intention of letting her into their group or even pretending that they acknowledge her. Someone is even posting some mean comments to her Facebook page telling her not to bother being like them, that she’s a loser, that she isn’t even worth the air she breathes, and Kelly eventually believes these posts. The only thing she can do to rectify things is to throw herself off the old water tower and end it all which is exactly what she does.
Detectives Jo Larsen and Hank Phelps are investigating Kelly’s suicide. Jo is sure that there was something more going on in Kelly’s life that would make her want to kill herself. The sad thing is that Kelly’s mother, Barbara, works as a home care nurse to help people cope with their children dying from cancer and Barbara seems to show more love for these children than she does for her own daughter.
Kelly’s best friend, Cassie, is angry at Kelly for wanting to change and become part of the “in-crowd.” Cassie was angry enough to burn their friendship bracelet thus ending their relationship.
Kelly is now alone, her best friend is gone, her mother spends more time with other kids than with her, and there’s no father around. She honestly believed that death was the only way out of her miserable life. Detective Jo Larsen sees a lot of herself in Kelly since her childhood was horrible too but Jo was strong and fought and struggled and was able to become an adult even though her childhood nightmares are with her everyday of her life affecting every part of it. Jo understood Kelly and is determined to find out who, figuratively, pushed Kelly off that water tower.
As the detectives investigate they discover some information on Kelly’s last few weeks of life. She was invited to one of the popular kids’ parties and something happened to her there. Something terrible but she thinks that no one will believe her unless she has proof and she does have proof. With it she has the means to destroy one of the richest families in the community but she kills herself before any of the proof can be revealed.
The case is very tricky with everyone hiding information or just outright lying to Jo and Hank. And making things a little more difficult is a rash of dog-nappings going on.
Older dogs are disappearing from their yards. Some are occasionally found crawling along a back road, barely able to move because of broken ribs and legs. These dogs were beaten but were able to somehow escape only to shortley die from their wounds. These poor animals can’t speak for themselves so Jo and Hank find themselves trying to find out what happened to them. The detectives are investigating two similar cases; one of an emotionally beaten child who kills herself and the second of physically beaten dogs who die from physical abuse.
Jo is determined to find out who the culprits are and to make sure they pay for the pain they caused both Kelly and the defenseless animals.
“Walk a Crooked Line” is a complicated, well thought out, and a thoroughly exciting story by author Susan McBride. It is the second in McBride’s Jo Larsen series.
Like the first book, “Walk into Silence”, this novel is very dark, thought provoking, and a bit uncomfortable at times. It’s not for the very squeamish not that there’s an abundance of violence here because there isn’t but the book does deal with some unsettling aspects of life that not all people care to read about. Ms. McBride does a brilliant job of treating these difficult topics very respectfully for her characters and her readers.
I’ve read a few of Susan McBride’s books. She has a couple of series that are also well-written, cute, and fun. Actually the author does surprise me. Most authors, not all, but most authors, can only write in one style and that’s fine especially if their books are good. But Ms. McBride shows her darker side in the Jo Larsen series, a dark side that really isn’t shown in her two other other series.
“Walk a Crooked Line” has nice twist that you don’t really see coming up and that twist gives it a great ending. Again, not for the sensitive reader but wonderful for mystery lovers. A novel not to be missed.
“I received an ARC of this book and voluntarily reviewed it.”
To see other reviews of Susan McBride’s books please go to Susan’s page on my blog.