Charlie Schiffer has been his mother’s shadow since his father’s death a few years back. Raised to see both sides of an argument and to understand police work better than most teenagers should, Charlie is a somewhat brilliant amateur detective despite still being in high school. When the boy he is crushing on in school ends up with a missing twin brother, Charlie begs his mother to allow him to help with her case. Before his mom can say no, Mason Chalmers is found dead and his brother Dare is asking Charlie to help him find the murderer.
With nearly everyone a suspect, Charlie races to find out just who killed Mason and why. As he and Dare investigate, they leave no stone unturned, which means that they begin to rack up both suspects and enemies. Charlie is convinced he can solve the murder, the only problem is that the suspect may be the one person Charlie doesn’t want to find guilty—that would be Dare, himself.
Laura Lascarso is back with a new release, In the Pines, the first in what seems to be a new series starring one Charlie Schiffer. Charlie isn’t your usual high school student. He is on the college-bound track at school, taking most courses for college credit, and has been helping his mom with investigations since he was in middle school. Being bright, intuitive, and old beyond his years still doesn’t make Charlie any less immune to an ongoing crush on one of the most popular boys in school, Dare Chalmers. Dare is a fraternal twin to his brother Mason, who is the school’s top athlete. When Mason goes missing and is later found dead, Dare calls on Charlie to help him find the murderer. Time spent together bring the two boys closer and both admit to their attraction before long. But there is a lot of mystery surrounding Mason’s death and Charlie secretly worries that he is being blinded by Dare’s attentions and therefore missing the twin’s possible involvement.
What this author does well is the mystery portion of this novel. It’s a solid whodunnit and she offers up several red herrings before dropping the bomb as to who actually did the murder. This is a fast-paced story and it certainly kept me captivated. What I struggled with is exactly how to label this story. Due to on the page sex that was rather explicit, I can hardly call it a young adult, and yet these were both high school boys and therefore it really can’t be a new adult either. The other problem I had was how Charlie’s voice gained a great deal of maturity at times, especially during the sex scenes. I could accept that Charlie was different—way more mature than most his age and a kind of junior detective to boot. However, the language the author chose to revert to in describing the sex took on a decided adult tone and for Charlie, who was a virgin—never even having kissed before, that was a bit of a stretch. This proved so out of character that it actually yanked me out of the scene for a moment and made me shake my head in disbelief.
I would like to see the author write more about this young man, however. I feel the book was a good one with the mystery element sound and compelling. My hope is that the author will allow for Charlie to remain a high school student and not thrust him into intimate scenes where he acts or speaks beyond his age as that, in my opinion, diminishes the work the author has done to develop a great young adult character.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.