There’s very little to connect Elise Diehl and Derek Maugham in five-time Arthur Ellis Award–winning author Norah McClintock’s latest mystery for teen readers. Sure, the police lieutenant’s wife and the 17-year-old high-school student live quite near each other, and they have a passing acquaintance, as most residents of a small town will, but they share no real relationship. In fact, they have virtually nothing in common until the stormy night over the Christmas holidays when they both disappear.
At first, Elise and Derek’s disappearances seem coincidental, but the pair’s commingled fates draw an entire community into a world of grief and suspicion. After Elise’s frozen body is discovered, the narrative comes to focus on Derek, exploring the boy’s relationships in search of clues, shifting between characters and situations to depict a life more complicated than it initially appears. What role did Derek’s girlfriend, Jordie, play in his disappearance? What were she and her former boyfriend – a textbook bad boy, rough and emotionally distant – talking about mere hours before Derek took his fateful walk out into the storm? What is the significance of the bracelet, which reappears throughout the narrative: is it a MacGuffin, or is it the key to everything?
Derek’s life is subjected to thorough scrutiny, and the masks of those around him are torn away. In the process, Derek becomes such a fully rounded character that the reader comes to feel his absence as acutely as if they knew him. When the resolution
arrives (after a requisite and admirable amount of misdirection), it is surprising and satisfying, the hallmark of a well-written mystery.