Patricia H. Rushford,
Grave Matters
(Bethany House, 2002)

In this 15th entry in the series featuring teen sleuth Jennie McGrady, Jennie is off to Ireland with her grandmother. Gram, a former FBI agent and private investigator, has not been back to her native home for several years, and she seems preoccupied and not entirely happy to be making the trip.

On the flight over, Jennie discovers a threatening note sent to Gram. When they arrive in Ireland, Gram takes the note to the police. Almost immediately after, she is nearly run down -- and that's just the beginning. When their host, William, a childhood friend of Gram's, asks her to investigate his own father's death, back when William was 3 years old, Gram agrees, although unsure of how much she can uncover after so many years. Her investigation, however, triggers a rash of attempts on her life and Jennie's.

Meanwhile, Jennie has discovered some family secrets involving Gram and Gram's mother. Do these secrets have anything to do with the attacks on Gram and Jennie? When the pieces finally fall into place, the person behind the attempts is revealed.

There is a surprising amount of violence in the book, including a murder and a bombing, and Jennie seems to lead a more dangerous life than many teens. There is plenty here to appeal to teens, and Jennie is a marvelous character: smart, engaging and not-too-perfect, a particularly appealing trait. The primary audience for this series is Christian teens, but many non-Christian teens will be able to identify with Jennie; her expressions of faith are convincing extensions of her character rather than didactic pieties shoehorned into the text. Rushford does touch on the Catholic/Protestant tensions. Her treatment is thoughtful without going into extensive detail.

The plot is somewhat less than credible, and the denouement is weak, but no more so than any similar series. The writing is lively and appealing, and the series in general is a good pick for teens who are into mysteries.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 7 June 2002

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