The Amateurs by Sara Shepard
Summary from Goodreads:
I need some answers about my sister. Help…
Five years ago, high school senior Helena Kelly disappeared from her backyard in Dexby, Connecticut, never to be heard from again. Her family was left without any answers—without any idea who killed Helena, or why.
So when eighteen-year-old Seneca Frazier sees a desperate post on the Case Not Closed message board, she knows it’s time to change that. Helena’s high-profile disappearance is the one that originally got Seneca addicted to true crime. It’s the reason she’s a member of the site in the first place.
Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, she agrees to spend spring break in Connecticut working on the case with Maddy Wright, her best friend from Case Not Closed. However, the moment she steps off the train, things start to go wrong. Maddy’s nothing like she expected, and Helena’s sister, Aerin, doesn’t seem to want any help after all. Plus, Seneca has a secret of her own, one that could derail the investigation if she’s not careful.
Alongside Brett, another super-user from the site, they slowly begin to unravel the secrets Helena kept in the weeks before her disappearance. But the killer is watching…and determined to make sure the case stays cold.
This is another hold over from last year on my Netgalley account. I have never read a book by Sara Shepard, but my students all love her Pretty Little Liars series so I thought I would give her a try. I am glad I did. This book was very well done with a lot of misdirections and surprises that made it a thoroughly enjoyable read. The ending was amazing as well and it made me happy that I already have the galley for the next book so that I don’t have to wait till November to see what happens.
This group of kids did an excellent job of sleuthing. They know a lot about the case before they get started, but are able to unravel more as the week goes by. I was a little put off by the budding romances, especially the crush that Brett develops on Aerin. And there was a lot of teenage angst that annoyed me too. They just didn’t seem relevant to the story and at times slowed it down as well. The relationship between Maddy and Seneca got a bit wearisome as well, but hopefully they will work it out eventually.
I think I liked Seneca the best. She is smart and determined to find the answers even when everyone else thinks that they have solved the murder, she always finds something that doesn’t sit right with her. She isn’t confident though, which is often her downfall. She is for the most part the leader of the group, but I don’t think she sees it that way. She is also calm in crises situations which is a good quality in a detective.
Maddy was a little bit of an issue for me. Maddy was always making bad decisions, but his heart was in the right place. His relationship with his coach is something that was distracting to the main story line, but I have a feeling that something more will happen with that before too long.
Brett was a character who bugged me throughout most of the book. I couldn’t quite figure him out. He at times seemed charming but his inner dialogue didn’t match up to his actions. I also didn’t like that he always seemed to be in costume, or acting, not being his true self.
The plot was excellent, I love murder mysteries that always keep you guessing. There was a lot of misdirection in this book and the addition of a stalker that was trying to keep them from solving the murder was a nice touch as well. Even though they are able to solve the mystery of who killed Helena we are left with a lot of loose ends that I am looking forward to seeing how they are resolved. A great start to a thrilling and suspenseful trilogy that will keep you turning pages way into the night.