Off the Shelf: What’s love got to do with it?

Twins, mysterious deaths off cliffs, unexplainable old photos … those are the types of plot lines that just reach out to me and plead: Put every other book aside and read me! That’s how “The Au Pair” by Emma Rous jumped to the top of my book queue.

On the day Seraphine and her twin brother Danny were born, their mother went over the cliffs behind their home. It’s a story they have always known as they’ve grown up with their father and older brother Edwin. Twenty-five years later, now mourning the death of her father, Seraphine finds an old family photo none of them has ever seen before of their father, brother Edwin, and their mother cradling and smiling down on at the new baby. One new baby.

The photo had to have been taken on their birthday as their mother died shortly thereafter. What strikes Seraphine as odd is that her mother is smiling, so why would she want to kill herself? And if it is a family photo, why aren’t there two babies? That’s when Seraphine begins to investigate, trying to find anyone who might know what really happened that day. One of the first people she tracks down is Edwin’s au pair, and that’s when the threats start coming.

I loved this story. There were plenty of suspects, lots of plot lines to keep a reader intrigued, and I really liked the characters. Oh, and did I mention it has twins? 

Speaking of twins, (heh, there’s a segue) Karen M. McManus’ newest is “Two Can Keep a Secret,” which you might recognize is based on a famous quote by Benjamin Franklin: “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

After Ellery and Ezra’s mother is hospitalized, the twins are shipped off to live with their grandmother in Vermont. They are going back to their mother’s hometown, which their mother has avoided visiting since her twin went missing back in high school. Their missing aunt isn’t the only tragedy that the town has endured; it’s the five-year anniversary of the unsolved murder of the homecoming queen, and the night they arrive in town a well-liked teacher is killed in a hit-and-run.  

While Ezra tries to make friends and blend in, Ellery, always fascinated with true crime, wants to find out what happened to their aunt way back when. It’s fall, and suddenly there are graffiti tags and bloody dolls left as threats for the upcoming homecoming queens. And Ellery has just been nominated to the homecoming court. It seems that the twins have moved into a picture-perfect town built on secrets, and Ellery is determined to expose them. Who will hold on to their secrets as the old mysteries start to be unburied?

“Freefall” by Jessica Barry is literally escapist fiction.  When the private plane she’s on crashes in the Rockies, Allison finds she’s the only survivor, and she quickly realizes this is her opportunity to go on the run and disappear. If she can endure the mountain, maybe she’ll be able to survive.

What she is fleeing is slowly revealed in disjointed flashbacks as she battles injuries, hunger, and thirst as she makes her way off the mountain. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, her widowed mother, Maggie, from whom Allison is estranged, has been informed of her only daughter’s death. Maggie always thought they would have time to reunite. Even in her grief, Maggie cannot quite believe Allison is gone. Having been a research librarian before she retired, Maggie has skills so she begins digging on the Internet to find out the details of the life her daughter had been living. (Woo-hoo: shout out for librarians!)

As Allison runs and Maggie investigates, Allison’s flashbacks and Maggie’s discoveries slowly begin to mesh, and the puzzle snaps together. If you’d like to get away for a while, real life will still be waiting for you when you put “Freefall” down.  

For these mysteries and many others, stop in the library and check something out.