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Blackthorn Winter (review)
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Reviewed by
Reiss, Kathryn Blackthorn Winter. Harcourt, 2006 [336p] ISBN 0-15-205479-0$17.00 Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 7-12

When Juliana's parents separate, the last thing Juliana wants is to be dragged away from California to the village of Blackthorn on the English seaside. However, Blackthorn is an artists' colony with offbeat charm, the perfect place for Juliana's mother to make a name (and a living) as a painter, and home to a host of quirky characters. Especially intriguing is the handsome, orphaned Duncan, and portrait artist Liza Pethering, a sharp-tongued busybody with whom almost everyone in [End Page 283] town seems to have a quarrel. After Liza's body turns up in a stream one morning, the authorities arrest a local lout and thief for her murder. Juliana, however, is convinced that they've arrested the wrong person, and she sets out to solve the crime herself amidst much discouragement and even some anonymous threats. Meanwhile, though she previously could not remember anything about her past before she was adopted at age five, Juliana suddenly begins to remember shadowy, ominous details about what happened to her birth mother. This atmospheric mystery, sometimes overwhelmed by a large cast of characters (each with a complicated history) nevertheless rewards the patient reader when it is revealed that the least likely suspect was behind not one, but two murders. Juliana's memories sometimes threaten to steal focus from the case at hand; her past turns out to be relevant, but the connection requires a lengthy, too-tidy exposition after the mystery has been solved. Similarly, the wild chase (and near murder) of Juliana by Liza's killer becomes sluggish when he (conveniently) confesses to all of his crimes in a protracted monologue. However, mystery fans and Anglophiles alike will appreciate this creepy tale with a genuinely surprising (and thrilling) conclusion, including the possibility of a romance for Julia with local charmer Duncan.

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