Hanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield

Hanging by a Thread

I first encountered Sophie Littlefield’s books when I followed a recommendation and picked up Aftertime, her zombie apocalypse novel.  I eagerly devoured the next two and was sad to find that the story was over.  I also eagerly requested her new young adult novel, Hanging by a Thread, and was not disappointed.  It has the same stellar plotting and intriguing characters as her other books.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“The quaint little beach town of Winston, California, may be full of wholesome townsfolk, picturesque beaches, and laid back charm, but Clare Knight is about to uncover something underneath its thriving demeanor. Someone is hiding something, and it’s as gruesome as the townsfolk, and their stately homes, are stunning. Amanda Stavros, fellow classmate and resident of Winston, is gone and there’s no sign of her ever coming back. Everyone says she was taken and murdered, but where’s the evidence? Why isn’t there a single ounce of proof? And why is everyone okay with this, except for Clare?

Luckily—or as it’s been turning out, unluckily—Clare possesses a gift, an ability to see visions from the clothes she works with. And since her clothes come solely from the townsfolk, Clare has become privy to some startling and disturbing memories of these townspeople. Will she uncover who killed Amanda Stavros? Or is she just moving herself up in line to be the next victim of Winston?”

I’ve seen novels that have characters that can see things from handling inanimate objects, but I haven’t seen one that narrows the focus to one specific type of item.  In this case, Littlefield confines Clare to getting visions from clothing, and I think it’s a great choice.  For one thing, clothing is common, so if you want to keep to a single type of item, this is a good one to pick.  For another, clothing is very personal—it’s in contact with the body and is worn at times that people are in private.  Because of this, it works perfectly with the murder mystery aspect of the story.

It’s nice to see a family that is not only “non-traditional” (in the sense that the father isn’t present), but one in which the nature of the family isn’t a big deal.  There are mentions of how Clare feels at being abandoned by her father, but it has nothing to do with the main plot.  The focus remains squarely on Clare, her mother, and her grandmother, showing how they interact with each other and deal with the gift—and sometimes curse—that is part of their family legacy.

I also like how Clare’s mother doesn’t have the ability, while the other two women do.  It gives the author an opportunity to show how a “normal” person would be affected when others in her family can see into her life in a very personal way.  Familial relationships can be contentious at the best of times, especially as children approach adulthood, and by stripping a level of privacy (or even just having that possibility exist) it highlights those conflicts.

If you read my reviews regularly, you know how excited I am to find novels set in Northern California.  Such stories are rare, although becoming a bit more common recently, and I find satisfaction in reading a book and being able to identify the places where the story takes place.  In this case, Winston is fictional (at least as far as I have been able to find out), but the area where the story is set is one that I know pretty well—it’s close to Monterey and on the California coast that I love so much.  Kudos to Littlefield for choosing such a wonderful area to draw people’s attention!

The novel’s mystery is well thought out, and the author does a good job at scattering little clues throughout the book that feed into the final reveal.  Alert readers may figure out what happened before the end, but the writing is entertaining enough that I don’t think a reader who “gets it” will stop reading.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching events unfold, not only in the mystery but in Clare’s personal acceptance of her curse/gift that comes from dealing with the mystery.

Hanging by a Thread is a well-written, cleanly plotted tale of the supernatural and of the all-too-human motivations that can lead people astray.  I’ve enjoyed every novel of Littlefield’s that I’ve read, and I’m so happy to see her branching out into young adult fiction.  I can’t recommend this author highly enough.

Also by this author: Aftertime, Horizon, Rebirth

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on August 28, 2012.

Series: n/a
ISBN: 9780385741040
Publisher: Random House
Page Count: 288
Publication Date: September 11, 2012
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-ARC through NetGalley
Author Website
Read an excerpt