"After Her" by Joyce Maynard

It's a riveting tale of murder and the mundane



In the hands of a less-skilled writer, this book — a thriller narrated by a 13-year-old — would be a contemporary Nancy Drew, with teenage girls the audience. But the writer is Joyce Maynard, and the book is not only a delicious read for adults, it's also a real page-turner.  "After Her" [William Morrow, $14.99], Maynard's eighth novel (one of them,"Labor Day," now in movie form), is loosely based on the true story of the Trailside Killer case in the late 1970s, when a series of murders of women took place on a California mountainside.

The murder plot line is expertly intertwined with the complicated dynamics of 13-year-old Rachel's domestic life — her neglectful mother, her devoted and doomed sister, and the heroic father who would falter and fall. Maynard has built her reputation on the layered and insightful chronicling of everyday life and in this book she doesn't disappoint.

And, though she has never written a crime story, she captures the genre perfectly. It's a can't-put-it-down story that features Rachel's father as the detective in charge of the murder investigation and Rachel herself who, fueled by visions of the murderer, conducts her own investigation, tragically undermining her father's.

Enough said. If you're a Joyce Maynard fan, you'll love this departure from her usual novels. If you're not, you'll still love it.

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