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by Jane Casey
Corgi Childrens, January 2013
416 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0552566039

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jess Tennant arrives for an extended holiday with her mother in the picturesque seaside village of Port Sentinel and at first she can't work out why she encounters strange looks from nearly everyone she meets. But then she gets told the reason. Jess is the spitting image of her cousin, Freya. Her dead cousin Freya, to be precise.

Freya fell to her death from a cliff top and no one knows whether she committed suicide or simply fell to her death in a tragic accident, but the more digging Jess does, the more she begins to wonder if there's a third possibility, one that no one other than her seems to want to consider. Jess starts to wonder if sensitive Freya, with her love of vintage clothing and her extraordinary talent as an artist, might actually have been murdered.

Once Jess starts thinking along those lines there's certainly no shortage of suspects: mysterious boy-next-door, Will Henderson, good-looking, flirty Ryan, the object of spiteful Natalie's obsession, even though all he seems to do is wind her up by flirting with other girls. Then there's Freya's former best friend, Darcy, who seems to be all things to all people,

Underneath this mix of teenage hormones, there's the more adult mystery of why Freya's mother left Port Sentinel before Jess was born, severed all relations with her family, and forged a new life for herself in London. Jess can't help thinking that Will's dad, Dan had something to do with that, and his dying wife is an added complication in a positive briar patch of emotions, old and new.

Writing for young adults is a new departure for Jane Casey, known for her Maeve Kerrigan series, and she handles the transition well. Her teenagers manage to be convincing, from the somewhat chaotic open-house arrangements of her mother's twin sister, Tilly, to the subtly menacing girl-gang that surrounds Natalie. This is a book that will appeal more to female readers, I think. Jess for all her understated clothes and sparky manner is certainly no Alex Rider or young James Bond, but she is believable and likeable, and doesn't rely on techno-gear and big bangs for her appeal, although HOW TO FALL has its fair share of cliffhangers in this book, literal as well as metaphorical.

There's no shortage of writers dipping their toes in the young adult waters, with John Grisham, Kathy Reichs and Harlan Coben, to name but a few, capitalizing on their reputations and introducing various mini-me sleuths, and Jess Tennant will probably hold as much appeal for some adults as she will for her target audience. There are times when a simpler narrative has its place, and I was as caught up in Jess's love life as I was in her detective work. Jess is the new kid on the block, and I wish her the very best of luck. She deserves it.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, April 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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