In the Dead of Summer – An Amanda Pepper Mystery by Gillian Roberts


In the Dead of Summer – An Amanda Pepper Mystery by Gillian Roberts
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (156 pages pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Mellow old Philadelphia, where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have flourished for centuries, now has a new claim to fame. The City of Brotherly Love has been proclaimed number one in the nation…for hostility. English teacher Amanda Pepper, crabbily gearing up for summer school at exclusive Philly Prep, feels she fits right in with the hostility mode.

And it’s going to get worse. Amanda gets her first prickling of unease in her own classroom, where a reading of Romeo and Juliet activates some very strange chemistry. Then the computer science teacher begins receiving anonymous “go-back-to-Africa” phone calls. A young Vietnamese boy dies in a drive-by shooting. And late one night, outside a Chinatown massage parlor, student April Tuong is kidnapped.

Random violence? Perhaps. But Amanda refuses to let gentle April vanish without at least asking a few questions, starting in her own classroom.

Gillian Roberts’s Philadelphia is the real thing. So, too, are her wit and humor, and her gripping story of Amanda’s tenacious search for the missing girl–along the brick streets of historic Philadelphia, in exotic Chinatown, and through the shady, sinister back alleys of the impoverished. The truth, when she finds it, is appalling, deadly, and much too close to home.

Lazy, hazy days of summer, spent in a classroom teaching summer school to unresponsive teenagers. Mandy Pepper likes to think she’s doing her bit for the students, but the extra money helps too.

Death visits in a drive by shooting outside the school, then one of her pupils disappears. Mandy is determined to solve the mystery, helped by her partner who is on sick leave from the police. Bartholomew Dennison, another teacher, also wants to help her find the missing girl. Although all seems calm on the surface when Mandy starts to dig deep nasty suspicions creep into her mind.

The feel of those lazy, hot summer days mentioned in the book seemed to cross over into the plot. There were no highs and lows in the book. Even when Mandy was attacked, it all seemed part of the summer days. Tension between the boyfriend and male teacher came up several times but didn’t seem to really go anywhere.  There were missed chances to really ramp up the conflict, which is a shame.

This was a well written book with great insight into the teenage world and social levels. Pleasant but unexciting. Maybe those more familiar with the summer school system would enjoy it more. In the Dead of Summer kept me in my comfort level but even so, I enjoyed reading it.

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