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If the Witness Lied

(IF THE WITNESS LIED) BY Cooney, Caroline B.(Author){If the Witness Lied} ON 12 May-2009 -

Natasha pickled this up at school as a mystery for her 40-genre challenge. She read it, LOVED it, highly recommended it, and told me it was due back today. So yesterday, after all the laundry and purging of shelves and such, I settled down into the early twilight with this book and some cats. And I, too, LOVED it.


At first lunch period, Jack is informed by the sometimes-babysitter for his toddler brother, that Aunt Cheryl is planning some redecorating in Jack's room. Cheryl is apparently keen on getting rid of all mementos of Jack's parents, so he cuts school to save a few things.


Over the next seven hours or so, Jack, his sisters, and their baby brother have to figure out what is going on, outwit the creepy adults, stay out of trouble, figure out the mystery, negotiate some sort of truce and happy ending. It's a lot to deal with, and the pace is relentless. But not so fast that Cooney neglects characterization. The author switches focus between Jack and his sisters, Madison and Smith, and their best friends, Diane and Kate, but there's never any blurring. Each of the teens feels distinct and recognizable, and each is dealing with the traumatic events of a year ago in a different way.


And although there is more religious faith expressed than I might have preferred, Cooney deals with that well, too: the kids' mother was a believer and active member of her church, Smith has rejected the idea of God entirely, Madison has more fallen away, whereas Jack seems never to have though about faith at all.


As a mystery/thriller the books gives the teens plenty of time to puzzle things out, do a little detecting, some evading, generally have a dangerous adventure, but doesn't pretend that it is right that the kids should have to do all this.


The conclusion feels realistic and true to the story, and satisfying. All in all a good read, and likely to appeal to readers who dislike profanity, sex, or violence in their mysteries, but want the sense of danger.


Library copy.