This is one of my super overdue and late reviews – I read this towards the end of January/beginning of February so let’s just say I’m not going to get super detailed on this review.
This novel was a good follow up, and despite the two in the title it’s not a sequel even if it is her second book. I liked One of Us is Lying more, though, because it was more teen focused while this one had more adult involvement. This novel, in addition to a murder mystery, deals with mother-child relationships of multiple generations, and an old family tragedy, and how it has haunted and shaped the protagonist’s life indirectly due to how it affected her mother.
As the novel begins, Ellery and her twin brother Ezra have moved in with their grandmother in Echo Ridge, the quintessential small American town. They have never been there before because their mother has been running away from Echo Ridge since she was old enough to leave, escaping the memory of her own twin sister’s murder 23 years ago. In fact she has run so much, she ended up in California, and is now in rehab.
Unfortunately, Echo Ridge doesn’t simply have one unsolved murder in its past – five years before another homecoming queen was murdered. Everyone suspected Declan, Malcolm’s older brother, but they couldn’t prove anything. This doesn’t stop the town from treating Declan and his family as outcasts. Declan has left town, but Malcolm is in high school and still feels the scrutiny of being a murderer’s brother. Ellery is new in town, though, and she and Malcolm become friendly. Ellery is also obsessed with true crime, possibly because of her aunt’s murder, and she remembers watching coverage of Lacey’s more recent murder investigation.
It doesn’t take long before things in the present start becoming complicated, too, as someone starts threatening the next homecoming queen. Is it a bad prank, a copy cat or is the murderer from 5 years ago back? It’s not as if the school year is off to a great start, either, with the recent and sudden death of a beloved science teacher.
The novel explores the relationships and dynamics within the community, alternating between the voices of Ellery, a newcomer, and Malcolm, someone who was too close to it all. In fact, when the threats begin, people point at him, thinking murder and violence might be a family hobby. As I said, I enjoyed McManus’s first novel more but that was due to the “Breakfast Club meets murder” gimmick. In ways, this novel dealt with more complex themes and relationships, exploring a community that has been rocked by unsolved murders in successive generations, and yet has not been able to find answers.