Blackthorn Winter is a YA murder mystery set in a small village in England. The setting is emphasized since the main characters are “Yanks” from California. The other emphasis in the novel, besides murder, is adoption and familiess since the protagonist, Juliana, is adopted. The book reads like an episode in a TV detective series or a made-for-TV movie; it’s decent entertainment for an afternoon, but nothing profound, just what I needed at the time I read it.
The book did have a couple of minor annoyances. First of all, the author over-emphasized the differences between American and British terms. Every Britishism was pointed out, made into a joke or a misunderstanding, or the very least “translated” in parentheses. It got old, but maybe kids who were completely unfamiliar with British torches and boots and chips would appreciate the too helpful explanations. Also, there were way too many coincidences infesting the plot. I won’t go into detail, but the solution to more than one mystery in the book depends on coincidence, and motive for the murderer is a little weak.
As a side note, not a criticism, I remember when books for children and even teenagers never included actual murders. I think the first children’s book I read that was a true murder mystery was The View From the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts in which a child actually witnesses a murder, but no one believes him. That plotline was unusual for children’s books back in the seventies when View was first published. but it’s not so unusual now. Child-in-danger movies and books are common fare these days. We’ve become much more lenient about what stories our children are exposed to and more confident of what violence and emotional content they can handle.