A quick note on reviews: I have been woefully behind in posting reviews for several months now. I’m going to make a concerted effort to catch up, because I’ve read some fantastic books that I want to tell you about! If you’re inclined, you can be notified of  new posts via email by signing up in that little form on the right. 

Those who are fans of Catriona McPherson’s supremely clever Dandy Gilver series (and if you’re not, you really should be) might be surprised by AS SHE LEFT IT. It’s darker, for sure, and just about impossible to classify…while the sleuth is amateur, it’s certainly not cosy. It is a mystery, yes, but includes quite a lot of psychological suspense.

It is, in a nutshell, it’s a fantastic story populated by some of the best characters I’ve met in recent memory.

The story concerns Opal Jones, a young woman who returns to the home where she grew up when her mother dies. She’s been gone for a while—she went to live with her dad as a teenager when her parents split up—and she’s not quite sure what to expect when she gets back.

What she finds are mysteries. Three of them, to be exact, each of which leads her into her own past and psyche, as well as a bunch of interesting physical places, most of which are on just one street.

The first mystery is that of a young boy who vanished without a trace one night when Opal was a child, whose disappearance haunts each of the residents of Mote Street still. The second concerns the family history and background of Fishbo, a now-elderly musician who Opal connected with as a kid. The third is about Opal’s bed. Yes, really. Opal quickly learns that the truth behind each of these mysteries lies in the secrets those involved hold.

In the course of reading books by quite a few Scottish authors this year, I’ve noticed that they seem to have a singular skill in creating secondary characters who jump right off the page, and this is true throughout AS SHE LEFT IT. Opal’s friends, old and new, are each richly drawn and layered; they’re people we want to spend time with, want to know better.

On the primary character front, I’m often annoyed by characters in their early twenties (I suffer from GitOffMyLawnItis), but I liked Opal a lot. She’s not falsely hip and cool, nor is her spunkiness fake. She’s also not a know-it-all; she feels genuine.

Whether your reading tastes run toward noir or you’re more a fan of knitting mysteries, you’ll enjoy AS SHE LEFT IT. There’s nothing guilty about the pleasure in reading it.

Author’s website: www.catrionamcpherson.com

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