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IN SEARCH OF THE ROSE NOTES
By Emily Arsenault
William Morrow/an imprint of HarperCollins, 2011 ($14.99)
Kindle Edition $9.99
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Best friends Nora and Charlotte were eleven years old when their teenage babysitter, Rose, disappeared. They did not believe the police theory that she'd run away. Rose was not that kind of girl, she was pretty and popular and her young charges adored her. Using all the methods they could come up with from their treasured set of Time-Life books on the paranormal and occult, they sought answers about where Rose was and when she'd come back home. They refused to consider that she might not come home at all. After several months of investigation, the police closed the case, concluding that Rose was either a runaway or had been abducted by a stranger.
The girls stayed friends for awhile, but drifted apart during high school. Nora moved away from their small Connecticut town; Charlotte did too, but later moved back to her family home, where she took a job at Waverly High School . They hadn't spoken in years, but to Nora's surprise, Charlotte calls her in 2006, sixteen years after Rose's disappearance, to tell her their friend has been found — or rather, her remains, buried in a wicker basket in an area that had been thoroughly searched after Rose vanished. This information is unsettling to Nora, and she makes arrangements to drive up to Waverly to see Charlotte and talk about her feelings.
The story is told in chapters that alternate between the past and present. Things that had happened when the girls were young take on new significance when examined through grownup eyes. Why did Rose break up with her boyfriend just before she disappeared; what was she talking to Charlotte's brother Paul so earnestly about; why was one of the girls' fathers giving Rose money? Why, several years later, did poems that were eerily like the dreams Rose shared with the girls show up in the high school literary magazine? Nora and Charlotte both begin to fear that the person who killed their friend might not have been a stranger at all.
Arsenault, whose first book, THE BROKEN TEAGLASS, was chosen as the New York Times Notable Mystery of 2009. She has written a beautiful, moody, and intriguing mystery. Each character comes across as real and believable, especially Nora and Charlotte. The events that took place when they were eleven marked them in ways that are clearly evident in their adult lives. Readers may think they have figured out the crime several times before the end, but each time they will be wrong. This is a book to be savored.
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