Zane Clearwater, age 26, is a suspect in his mother's death by presumed arson at the trailer where she and his younger sister live -- and so does he, although he's paid a deposit on his first apartment based on his job at the Tulsa (Oklahoma) Zoo. The trouble is, Zane got fired on suspicion of selling turtle eggs; lost his sobriety that day and got drunk with his mom; and left the trailer park just about 15 minutes before the trailer erupted in flames. There are a lot of reasons to consider him a suspect. Worse yet, Zane's a blackout drinker: He has no idea what happened that evening.
Soon Zane and his sister Lettie, 14, find the outlines of their lives irretrievably blurred, as they discover their mother's life was very different from what they'd thought -- basically she had a name change and is in hiding from a possible spree killer who'd threatened her life. The siblings, especially Zane, have to know more, and soon they're in touch with the man who surely was Zane's biological dad, who'd been released by the courts for lack of evidence. The discovery of a couple of grandmothers and half-brothers doesn't make this any easier.
Zane wondered if his blackouts were inherited from his father. And he also wondered what other traits he might have inherited. Maybe that dark rage that overtook him sometimes when he drank? The part of him that itched for a fight or welcomed violence? The part he tried to keep clamped down.Meanwhile Zane's hoped-for girlfriend turns out unreliable, and the police are increasingly interested in Zane -- which his newly discovered relatives are only exacerbating.
Learning that his life was based on a set of lies was like someone had opened a locked door, but instead of revealing a brightly lit path forward, all he saw was another closed door. He wasn't even sure he had the energy right now to open it. The adrenalin of the day had evaporated and he slump in the chair. There was no fight in him now; all he wanted was a nap.
This is a well-written mystery, with plenty of energy and good plot twists. Zane and Lettie are indeed engaging, and memorable. I'm really glad to have read the book, and I'd recommend it to .... well, there's that burning issue I mentioned. Zane is the protagonist who's viewing the action, and his issues are coming-of-age issues: naive belief that a parent will solve a situation, that a first girlfriend will become a wife, that the warmth of his newly discovered father means he has a "real family" to depend on -- and, of course, that he can somehow drink like his father and not screw up his life.
So this is a "young adult" (YA) mystery. Even the language in it, the sentence structures, the dialogue, say young adult. In fact, I don't buy Zane as 26: He acts and thinks like 18 or so.
And that means I'm recommending this for teens -- and for the many adults who enjoy YA mysteries. Share it across generations for extra pleasure. It won't make you double-check the door locks as you read, although Zane's dad is one nasty character. (Native American issues do rise up here, since the villain of the book is Cherokee. I leave that for others to probe, but please be aware of it.)
This is Lipinski's debut novel, and I look forward to reading more of her work. Her website is intriguing -- check it out here. The book is a paperback original, published by Majestic Content Los Angeles, and also available as an ebook.