This book has entertained me through several hours of driving and housework. It was well written and well paced and I loved the picture the author painted of up-market Dulwich, with its Yummy Mummies and valuable real estate.
Beth Haldane is a young mum whose husband had sadly, died young. She has one son, Ben, still in primary school, and has just landed herself the job of archivist at the prestigious secondary school, Wyatt's. Her boss turns out to be a lecherous old man, unpopular amongst the other staff and seemingly lacking in social graces.
When events lead to her becoming the prime suspect in a murder, she decides the police need a bit of help, before she finds herself behind bars and her young son loses his mother.
I liked that Beth's motive for becoming a sleuth, was believable. I also identified with her as being a little out of the 'cool' group and a bit insecure. Her friend, Kate, was a great sounding block for her investigations and a good friend too.
There's a bit of a potential romance, but given that this is the first of a series, there is plenty of time for this to develop, or not.
Well read by Alex Lee, who did a good job on both male and female characters.
I look forward to reading/listening to further episodes in this series.
german and english review (spoilerfree)
Inhalt: Willkommen in der Ellingham Academy!
Versteckt in den Bergen Vermonts ist die Privatschule der ideale Ort für die begabtesten Schüler des Landes – Bestsellerautoren, YouTube-Stars, Künstler, Erfinder. Doch das Internat umgibt eine tragische Geschichte. Vor mehr als 80 Jahren wurden Frau und Tochter des Schulgründers entführt. Genau deshalb wird Stevie Bell an der Akademie aufgenommen: Sie soll die bisher ungeklärte Ellingham-Affäre lösen.
Und schon bald erhält sie eine mysteriöse Botschaft, die einen Mord ankündigt. Als ein Schüler kurz darauf tot aufgefunden wird, ist Stevie überzeugt, dass es einen Zusammenhang zwischen diesem Todesfall und den Verbrechen aus der Vergangenheit gibt.
Stevie Bell ist großer Fan von Sherlock Holmes und Agatha Christie. Aber noch viel mehr begeistern sie reale Kriminalfälle – wie die bisher ungelöste Ellingham-Affäre. Als Schülerin der exklusiven Ellingham Academy kann sie endlich selbst am Schauplatz der legendären Entführung ermitteln. Doch als ein Mitschüler ums Leben kommt, muss Stevie nicht nur das Verbrechen von damals aufklären.
Meine Bewertung: Ich hab nicht wirklich das bekommen was ich erwartet hatte und das hat mich doch sehr enttäuscht.
Zu allererst muss ich sagen, dass mir der Schreibstil wirklich gut gefallen hat. Das Buch hat sich wirklich flüssig und gut lesen lassen. Ich schaff selten ein Buch in neun Tagen. Also am Schreibstil kann ich wirklich nicht meckern. Ich mochte auch total den Wechsel zwischen der Vergangenheit und dem Hier und Jetzt. Die Rückblicke in die Vergangenheit haben mich absolut nicht aus der aktuellen Storie rausgebracht.
Die Charaktere. Stevie. STEVIE. Sie war ein wirklicher guter Hauptcharakter für das Buch. Ich fand sie gleich von Anfang an richtig interessant und mit ihrem Interesse für Kriminalfälle und dann auch noch ihre Panikattacken, ich hab mich einfach gleich mit ihr verbunden gefühlt. Aber dann...sie hat wirklich einige Entscheidungen getroffen mit denen ich nicht ganz einverstanden war, vor allem die Tatsache, dass sie wieder und wieder zu David zurück gegangen ist obwohl er sie eigentlich nur belogen und manipuliert hat, und einfach unerträglich war.
Janelle. JANELLE. Ich mochte sie wirklich so gerne und hätte gerne noch viel mehr von ihr gesehen. Und Vi. In dem nächsten Buch brauch ich eindeutig mehr von den Beiden.
Nate. Hach, ich mag ihn. Ich mag ihn wirklich gerne. Er ist auch überhaupt der einzige Kerl in dem ganzen Buch, den ich wirklich ertragen kann. Weder Hayes noch David waren mir wirklich sympatisch. David hat mich sowieso immer auf den falschen Fuß erwischt jedes Mal wenn er in dem Buch aufgetaucht ist.
Ellie. Bei ihr bin ich mir super unsicher. Ich fand ihre Art am Anfang noch recht unterhaltsam, dann wurde es mir mit der Zeit einfach zu viel. Und am Ende weiß ich sowieso nicht was ich von allem denken soll.
All die Brownie Punkte an Larry. Larry hat mein Herz gestohlen, das muss ich echt sagen. Ich mag eine väterliche Beziehung zu Stevie und einfach seine ganze Art.
Alles im Allen, hätte mir das Buch unheimlich gut gefallen, wenn Stevie mehr ermittelt hätte und dafür weniger Zeit und Interesse an David verschwendet hätte.
Summary: Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. "A place" he said, "where learning is a game."
Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.
True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.
My review: That book wasn't what I expected at all and it left me kinda disappointed.
First thing, I truly loved the writing. It was such an easy read and I just flew through the pages. It's really not often that I read a book in nine days. So I can't complain about the writing. I also really loved the change between the past and the here and now. The flashbacks to the past didn't take me out of the current story at all.
The characters. Stevie. STEVIE. She was a reall great main character for this book. Right from the start she was just super interesting, and with her interest in True Crime and with her issues with having panic attacks, I felt such a connection with her right away. But then...she really made some decisions that I couldn't understand at all, mainly the way she always went back to David, who kept lying and manipulation her, and who was just unbearable.
Janelle. JANELLE. I just really liked her and I would've loved to see so much more from her. And Vi. In the next book I need so much more about the two of them.
Nate. Ahh, I liked him. I liked him a lot. He was the only guy in the whole book that I could stand anyway. Neither Hayes nor David were even a bit likable. David just rubbed me the wrong way whenever he showed up in the book.
Ellie. I'm not sure about her. In the beginning she was pretty entertaining but it got old really fast. And at the end of it all, I really don't know what to think or how I should feel about any of it.
All the brownie points for Larry, tho. Larry stole my heart, not gonna lie. I love his fatherly relationship towards Stevie and just his whole personality.
All in all, I would've liked the book much more if it would've focused more on Stevie doing more detectiving and less of Stevie wasting her time and interest with David.
I had such a great run with this book today, I just flew from one chapter to the next, and then David happened. I hate this guy with a burning passion anyways and THEN he inserts himself in a situation that Stevie doesn't want him in. Maybe I'm overly sensitive because of my social anxiety but HOLY SHIT. THIS IS NOT OKAY. It makes me so uncomfortable reading about that I just had to put the book away for a bit and I'm really not looking forward to picking it up again and being back in that situation. Why are some people like that? UGH.
rant over...sorry, but I just...I'm feeling a lot of things about this.
Honestly this one didn't work when you focused on the adult characters. There was also a wise old black man helping out the white people around him and that didn't sit that well with me either. I think the biggest issue is that Harris was selfish about everything and Ella should have stayed professional. The characters of Elijah, Brady, and Clarice are the only parts of the book I enjoyed reading about. Monroe backed off on incorporating Brady into more of the story and I wish she had. Clarice and Brady's friendship ended up feeling unfinished too.
"Skyward" is about Harris Henderson (that name) who runs a bird sanctuary in the Lowcountry in South Carolina. He devotes mos of his energy to the sanctuary while trying to parent his 5 year old daughter Marion. When Marion falls ill and is diagnosed with Type I diabetes, Harris realizes she needs to hire a caregiver for his daughter to ensure she gets her insulin shots. He ends up hiring Ella Majors who after being a long time pediatric nurse in Vermont is ready to do something new.
I didn't like Harris. I get that he was doing a great job, but after hiring Ella he pretty much demands a lot of things of her that I thought were unfair. And he also forbid her from talking about Marion's mother Fannie. That ended up becoming moot though when Fannie returns wanting to make her and Harris's marriage work. Oh did I not mention that Harris is married and starts up a romance with Ella? Yeah, that happened. I maybe mumbled how very Jane Eyre of him especially with the ending too. I guess for me I didn't see what was so great about Harris. He lives only a couple hundred feet from the bird sanctuary but asks like he has so much to do he can't spare any time for his daughter. When they end up losing a nurse for some time due to a family emergency he asks Ella to step in and she's of course (rightfully) says she's there to take care of Marion, not birds. But of course she ends up doing it because Ella has zero backbone.
Onto Ella. Eh. Monroe wrote her as pretty pathetic in my mind. Ella goes on about knowing she's not pretty and she on her 35th birthday resigned herself to being alone forever, with no husband and children and pretty much acted as if there was nothing more to her life.
Ella instantly finds herself attracted to Harris though she's there to actually work. Most of the book is her blushing anytime Harris does something nice and she runs around beating herself up for thinking about Harris romantically. I felt skeeved out about the whole working for the guy and then her getting talked into also working at a bird sanctuary. I seriously felt for Marion because the whole book is pretty much her father and her caregiver making her second or third to birds.
The other adult characters in the story were pretty boring except for Elijah. We get Harris's estranged wife back in the mix and Monroe had the chance to turn the book into something else but then swerved and did what I call a romance clean-up.
Monroe has written about the Gullah's that live in South Carolina in her other books before. This time it bugged me though because Elijah is just used to give out wisdom to characters like Harris and Brady. We hear his backstory via Clarice and I wish that we actually had him deciding to tell his story to someone to make him more developed.
Brady was a hard luck character who was doing what he could to keep his family together and not get his father in trouble. I liked the character and wondered why Monroe didn't write a sequel to Skyward that would feature him. I liked the idea of him and Clarice being friends. I did feel bad though that Monroe had Clarice arguing nothing could happen between them and it was implied it was because he was white and she was black. This book was published in 2003 though so I went back and forth about that being an issue in this time and place.
The writing was just okay. I am used to Monroe making me feel as if I am in the book due to how she writes. This time I wasn't feeling it. I was interested in the research she obviously did about raptors (eagles, falcons, etc.). And she also includes little bits about them before each chapter heading. I also got a kick out of the rooster in this story. Yes, I was more invested in the animals than the actual plot.
The flow was off through the whole book though. There just seemed to be a lot of things left unsaid and we jump around a lot from Harris, Ella, and then Brady in certain sections. I don't know if the book had been tighter just focusing on Harris and Ella. However, I loved the parts with Brady.
The setting of the Lowcountry always seems magical in most of Monroe's books. This time it didn't feel that way to me as I finished this.
The ending was...just think of Jane Eyre. I didn't even know what to say about it.