Teenager Jess Tennant and her mother have moved from London to Port Sentinel on the English coast to get away from Jess’s father, a divorce, and the shambles of an old life. There barely three months, Jess has found herself in the middle of a second mystery (the first, How to Fall, involved the suspicious death of a cousin). A teenage boy from her school has been beaten badly and left for dead or near-dead.
The boy’s sister asks Jess to find out what happened, and to do that, she has to run smack into the face of the local police chief, a series of high school in-crowds, her old boyfriend and the boy who wants to be the new boyfriend. And her father shows up in all his obnoxious presence.
What Jess finds, in Jane Casey’s young adult novel Bet Your Life, is secrets, dark secrets, and danger.
Bet Your Life was originally published in Britain, and it’s surprising in several ways. First, the scenes and the dialogue, with a few exceptions, sound almost American. Second, the teenagers in the novel act more adult than most of the adults do (adult males, in particular, don’t fare well here). Third, this may be a mystery, but there are more romantic stories going on at any given time that you find in a lot of romance novels.
And, yes, the book kept me interested and intrigued the entire time. It’s a fast-paced read, and it’s easy to suspend belief and follow the story as it develops and morphs downs highways and byways.
I understand what part of the appeal is, and why a lot of adults are buying young adult fiction. These novels don’t have graphic, gratuitous sex that is required in most popular novels today. Bet Your Life takes a dark turn but contains nothing graphic or gratuitous.
Casey is an Irish crime writer, and this is the second Jess Tennant mystery. She’s previously published five mystery novels in the Maeve Kerrigan series: The Burning, The Reckoning, The Last Girl, The Stranger You Know, and The Kill. A third Jess Tennant mystery, Hide and Seek, is scheduled to published in late August.
Bet Your Life is an easy, entertaining read right to the end.
Photograph: Guy Fawkes Day bonfire by Angie Perkins via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission. Such a bonfire plays a role in Bet Your Life.