CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 26 . . . . March 9, 2012
Lila Ouimette's father is shot, apparently in the midst of committing a murder. There is no doubt because an eye witness sees everything. That eye witness is Finn Newsome, who happens to look out his bedroom window just in time to see Ouimette shoot Finn's stepmother. Finn's father struggles to get the gun from Ouimette and, in the process, kills him. Later, Finn learns that Ouimette killed his birth mother many years before and now, in what seems to be a bizarre coincidence, has also killed his stepmother. Finn and Lila meet at the police station, but although they chat, neither realizes who the other person is or how their paths will cross in the future as they both try to understand what has really happened and who is responsible.
Norah McClintock is well-known for her many young adult crime novels and the prizes she has won over the years for her writing. Guilty will appeal to both her fans and to new readers as well. The book is fast-paced and exciting as Lila and Finn both search for the truth, and their seemingly disparate investigations begin to point to people and events for which neither is prepared. The book is written in short chapters which alternate between Lila and Finn, and so readers are able to watch each teen as they deal both with the grief of losing someone close to them and the search for truth which stuns them when it is finally revealed. The usual elements of a good mystery are all there, with a number of suspects and potential scenarios. People keep secrets of all kinds, and the final unravelling of the plot surprises both Lila and Finn and will catch readers off guard both in its simplicity and ingenuity.
McClintock manages to create believable characters in Lila and Finn who seem destined to be wary and suspicious of one another given the circumstances in which they find themselves. The strain between the two heightens the overall tension of the novel. The author brings them close enough to one another that they are eventually able to share information and able to respect each other's feelings. The supporting characters, such as the two fathers and some of the workers at Mr. Newsome's club, are also well-defined and play important roles in the novel.
What motivated the murders? Who is guilty? What will the fallout be for the two teenagers as they attempt to put their lives back together? McClintock eventually answers all of these questions but only after keeping readers guessing as she slowly but surely builds the suspense to the point where Lila and Finn meet the murderer face to face and the facts finally fall into place.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.
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