Killer's Cousin by Nancy Werlin

Lynn: Any other re-readers out there? I confess to being a major re-reader most of my life. It is harder to do these days but I still love to revisit old favorites. Sometimes it can be disappointing but I am happy to say that I recently reread two Nancy Werlin mysteries and they are just as powerful as the first time I read them. Killer’s Cousin (Penguin/Dial, 2009) and Locked Inside (Penguin/Dial, 2009) have been reissued with new covers. These taut and intricate mysteries are still favorites at our school and the attractive new covers are sure to gain new readers.

After being acquitted in the death of his girlfriend, David moves to Boston to live with his aunt, uncle and young cousin, hoping to escape the constant media attention and move on with his life. Guilty or innocent? David has not acquitted himself and struggles to deal with his feelings of guilt and sadness. Boston offers neither the anonymity nor the peace he craves. His aunt and uncle barely speak since the apparent suicide of his cousin Julia and his young cousin, Lily, seems disturbed and manipulative. Ghostly whispers echo through David’s small apartment adding to his confusion. Werlin expertly ratchets up the tension and the doubt, gradually releasing additional clues, building the fear to a terrifying conclusion. Besides being a nail-biting mystery, Killer’s Cousin offers the reader much to think about with fascinating themes of guilt and forgiveness. If you’ve missed these great books, give them a try and if you’re an old fan like me, enjoy a deliciously shivery re-read.

Cindy: I love to re-read favorite books, but rarely find the time to do it these days unless I pick up a favorite title on audio and induldge that way. No, usually if I am not reading something that is just being published, I am going back to get titles I missed the first time around. I have a large “shelf of shame.” You know, those titles that I just know I should have already read but haven’t yet? I really admire Nancy Werlin’s writing and I’ve seen Killer’s Cousin listed every time someone gathers best mysteries for teens on a listserv or bibliography and kept thinking, I really need to read that. I capitalized on a spring trip to Boston and read the book there (isn’t it fun to read books set in the locale you are visiting if you can?)

I’m so thrilled that I can move this title off of my “shelf of shame” and onto my “favorite booktalks” shelf. I’ve been wasting years of great readers advisory opportunities. The psychological exploration along with the unfolding mystery makes for riveting reading. Teens will love thinking about the big issues that haunt David and Lily. Rarely does an author make me feel sympathy, empathy even, for a character as unlikeable as Lily. I took a peek at Werlin’s author website and learned some interesting background on the writing of this novel:

The Killer’s Cousin was my second novel, and it (and I) went through five torturous, hideous, and painful drafts over five years before it reached its final form….more

You can also find Lynn’s excellent book discussion guide there. This book would make for fascinating discussion in a teen book club or classroom. If it’s also on your “shelf of shame,” check it out and check it off!

For more great mystery reading, see this month’s Booklist Top 10 Crime Fiction for Youth by Ian Chipman.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

3 Comments on "Killer's Cousin by Nancy Werlin"

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  1. kgraff@ala.org' Keir says:

    In my heart I’m a re-reader–I often think about all the books I’d love to read again–but in practice, I’m a one-and-done reader. I never seem to find the time.

  2. jfritz@dbrl.org' John Fritz says:

    Thanks for recommending this book – I just finished it and its great! I’ll be reviewing it for our teen blog soon.

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