Hanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield is a stand-alone young adult paranormal mystery novel (available September 11, 2012).
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?
Sophie Littlefield’s young adult mystery novel Hanging By A Thread deeply entwines the heroine Clare’s psychic talent, clothing-related clairvoyance, into the story. Clare’s connection to clothing appears before we the readers even know she has a psychic gift. Clothing itself is an integral part of a mystery from the past, that gave rise to her talent, and foreshadows the later murder plot.
Each time clothing appears in the novel, it’s meticulously detailed, just as Clare would see it and take note.
The image is of Alma in her early twenties and very pregnant. She looks pretty in her simple wool serge dress. But she’s overshadowed by the young woman standing next to her, who is wearing a gorgeous wedding gown. Silk voile drapes the bodice and dropped waist, and the Cluny lace veil is accented with small white feather plumes and pearls. If you look carefully, you can detect a darkness, a hint of fear, behind the young woman’s shy smile. The day after the picture was taken, both Alma and the young bride were dead.
Clare is an active heroine, with interests outside of solving mysteries. She’s had her gift of clairvoyance since age 12, and now, as a teenager, is making use of her affinity for fabric in what she hopes will become her career as a fashion designer. She doesn’t seek out items that induce visions, but all sorts of vintage clothing comes her way through donations and from thrift shops once the townspeople know she is a seamstress.
Rachel and I had started a business together, selling my one-of-a-kind fashions . . . I always put a lot of time into choosing what I wear. Not just because I make a lot of my clothes myself, but because someday my look will be my brand. Kind of like Betsey Johnson—if you look at pictures of her from the eighties, you can see the inspiration for everything she’s designed ever since.
. . . I made clothes and bags from other people’s castoffs, taking them apart and sewing them back together again, tailoring sleeves and hems and necklines, and adding trim and embellishments. This week I’d altered a coral-pink jacket that came from a suit my mom hadn’t worn in years. I’d added bright orange piping around the lapels, and replaced the buttons with vintage stamped-metal ones from the sixties. As a final touch I’d sewn on a pink and coral fabric flower that came from one of my old headbands. A pair of jeans—size 2, three sizes too small for me or I would have kept them for myself—now sparkled with bugle-bead curlicues starting on the back pockets and trailing down the outer seams of the legs.
Clare’s work with clothing leads her into the present-day mystery in her new town, which involves the deaths of local kids on July 3, two years in a row. She and the rest of the kids in town like to think that the two deaths on the same date are just coincidence. One victim was a boy, the other a girl who was a little bit older. One body was found and the other was not.
Clare doesn’t intend to investigate anything, but first she meets the mother of the missing girl and then pulls a jacket from a donation bag that is heavy and dark with bad emotional vibes. Clare has always tried to use her gift for good when she can—her grandmother tells her that she will lose it otherwise—but this jacket clearly has a more dangerous message than she’s ever encountered, and she must make a decision: to act or to ignore what she knows. Given that this is a mystery novel, it’s clear what course she will choose.
Hanging By A Thread is one of the more interesting mystery novels I’ve read lately!
Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. Her World War I-set Spice Brief, “Under Her Uniform,” is a tie-in to her novel The Moonlight Mistress. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.
Read all posts by Victoria Janssen for Criminal Element.