I’ve decided that since I’m such a huge mystery buff, I will host a mystery meme. I thought I’d call it (not overly imaginatively) Mmm (as in delicious) — Mystery Monday Meme. I generally read at least one mystery novel a week anyway, so I’ll try to post my review of it on a Monday. If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday mystery, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review. You can also copy my Mmm badge to your post. Over time, we should get lots of participation and be introduced to a whole slew of mysteries and mystery authors. Meanwhile, here is my first Mystery Monday Meme (Mmm) offering.
I’m starting off with Susan Finlay‘s Project Chameleon series, Book 1 — Liars’ Games. I read this in one day in two sittings. Not because it was an easy read, but because it was a compelling adventure, full of suspense, danger, complications, and a touch of romance. As if being in the witness protection program — WITSEC — doesn’t inherently contain it’s own element of danger, Dr. Juliet Powell finds herself facing danger in her work place — a high school where the last principal has walked off the job, drug deals are made in the parking lot, students are engaging in sex in the washrooms, and gang members harass students and faculty alike.
Although a brilliant mathematician, Juliet has already blown her cover twice because she quite simply is a terrible liar, and her handler Brad Meyers is a little fed-up with having to “hold her hand” and move her around because she can’t keep her story straight. Now settling in Edgewater, a suburb of Denver, Colorado, she has another new name, Claire Constantine, and another new background to remember. When she arrives at Human Resources for the Front Range School District, she is bewildered to be offered the principal’s post at Midland High School instead of the math position at a middle school she had been promised. Unsure of what to do, Juliet (Claire) accepts the position, only to find out after the fact what an incredible challenge she faces. Not only from an indifferent student body, but a resentful staff, dangerous gang members, and a hostile School Board President, John Richmond, who felt his power diminished when he had been forced by the mayor and a senator to hire her, sight unseen. They’re all just waiting for her to fail.
Trying to keep her private life just that — private — Claire doesn’t mention her three-and-a- half- year-old son to anyone at school. Aidan (now Marcus), like Claire is gifted and so picks up his new identity quickly and easily. Mindful of danger from both organized crime, and her boyfriend Callum who put Claire and their son into this danger, alarm bells go off when first the babysitter, and then the vice-principal, Ron, report that there has been a stalker hanging around watching Marcus and asking questions about Claire.
Claire vacillates between wanting to succeed in turning the school into a safe and positive environment, and wanting to get out into a new and safer identity. She quickly gains the support of her superintendent, Steve, and his assistant, Frank, and slowly wins some support from several staff members, but retaliation from gang members over the changes she implements is swift and brutal. Facing danger on all sides, Claire decides to take a chance and trust Steve.
As a former school teacher, I was intrigued by the measures Claire tries to implement to make her new high school safer, and was impressed with her caring attitude for students who wanted to do well but were being bullied and threatened. I never worked at a school where students were so out of control or staff so intimidated or ambivalent, but we’ve all seen the movies and news reports. I felt the setting and characters were extremely well drawn, and realistic, and there was nothing predictable about the plot. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series, as well as other books by Susan Finlay. * * * * *