“Beyond Suspicion” by Catherine A. Winn (Poisoned Pencil, $10.95) is an edgy, young adult paperback mystery set in Whispering Springs, TX that should also appeal to older readers.
It showcases 15-year old Shelby Palmer, who is a prime suspect in the disappearance of Josh, her one-year-old brother.
Shelby had been looking forward to attending her first girl-boy party. Roger, her step-father, tells her that she can’t go, but has to take care of Josh instead.
Frustrated and angry, Shelby puts the young child in a stroller and takes him on a trip to a nearby park. When a string of firecrackers goes off, Shelby is distracted and joins the crowd of people looking. When she returns, the baby is gone!
Frantic, Shelby searches for Josh, but the stroller is empty, he’s nowhere in sight. She sees a white van leaving the parking lot; she’d noticed it before, cruising the neighborhood. She thought that the two creepy people inside were looking at property that was for sale.
The police arrive, can’t find any sign of Josh, and take Shelby back for questioning. A determined detective believes she’s murdered him and hidden the body. He points to angry text messages that Shelby sent to her
best friend relaying her feelings about Roger’s decision.
Shelby tells the police about the white van, but they don’t seem to pay much attention. The tension rises as the story gets more sensationalized by the media. Soon reporters take over their front yard. Shelby starts
getting nasty text messages.
The teenager decides to sneak out of the house, trying to find Josh on her own. She meets Matt, a senior in high school, who has secrets of his own; he offers much-needed help as they try to figure out what really
Shelby puts together small clues that the police have missed; soon she’s on the trail of the kidnappers, with unexpected and violent results.
This carefully-crafted tale takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride, deftly handled by Winn, a former art and elementary school teacher.
Her debut novel is the first book in the Whispering Springs mystery series; it’s the sixth young adult mystery published by the Poisoned Pencil, a new division of the Poisoned Pen Press.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime
novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.
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This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on August 9, 2015.