MYSTERY

Before She Was Helen

Poisoned Pen: Sourcebooks. Sept. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9781728205120. $26.99. M
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This terrific suspense tale from best-selling YA author Cooney has a relatable heroine living anonymously in a South Carolina retirement village. Clemmie has been living under an assumed name for 50-plus years. When she goes to check on a nasty neighbor, she finds a beautiful object and sends photos to her grand-niece and nephew, who promptly post it online—and unwittingly put her in jeopardy. Suddenly she’s the target of a deadly drug dealer, her double identity could be exposed, and her fingerprints are all over a murder scene. Worse, a cold case involving the murder of her long-ago rapist and stalker, a beloved basketball coach at her high school, is being reopened. Must she run away and make a new life again, or can she continue her dull but safe life in Sun City? The details of the identical “villas” and their decidedly nonidentical residents are spot-on, as are observations about how we live now vs. then. Clemmie and the other residents are fully fleshed characters, not a cutesy oldster in the bunch. How each of them, including Clemmie, deal with disruptions in their placid lives is hilarious and familiar.
VERDICT Perfect for fans of domestic suspense and believable, mature characters, and anybody who likes a solid twisty story. [See Prepub Alert, 10/21/19.]

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