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I’m a big fan of 2 for 1 deals, especially when they’re hawking something I actually want. Now you know why my freezer is jam packed with frozen spinach and curry leaves. It’s also why Elizabeth Chandler’s Dark Secrets 1 pleases me so. You get not one, but two tales of people and ghosts behaving badly. Both stories are about 200-250 pages, which is a treat in these days of series installments exceeding 900 pages (I’m looking at you, George R.R. Martin).

If it’s for free it’s for me, right?

Dark Secrets by Elizabeth Chandler

Dark Secrets by Elizabeth Chandler

Legacy of Lies

How many eery stories begin with the main character receiving an invitation from some distant relative? Megan arrives in Wisteria, Maryland only to discover a rich grandmother in a drafty old mansion and a hunky cousin who makes her glad she’s adopted. A stroll around the picturesque town is all it takes to learn grandma’s creepy mansion is the haunted place, the one with a dark past that every town seems to have.

The two week visit is not going so well. Despite sending the invite, Megan’s grandma doesn’t appear to like her very much. But her natural curiosity prompts her to weed through rumors and separate the facts surrounding a deceased great aunt who looked just like her from legend. Between sleuthing around the drafty house and drooling over her cousin, Megan also learns she’s psychic.

This all sounds formulaic, but if you read it fast it’s as satisfying as a crunchy snack. Perfect for the train or stolen time when you just want to be entertained. It leans more towards light mystery than chiller. Overall I thought the writing was clear and way better than the story itself, but I’d definitely read Chandler again, especially if she’s sneaking in the author’s equivalent of a secret song.

Don’t Tell

Also set in Wisteria, “Don’t Tell” brings us back to familiar plot ground. Lauren is 17 and hasn’t visited her family in Wisteria since her mother drowned in the river seven years ago. She returns upon her aunt’s request and notices that things haven’t changed much. Money is as tight as always and now her cousin Nora claims to see the same knot-tying ghosts her mother mentioned shortly before her accident.

Similar to the first story, ghosts and peripheral characters hinting that Lauren is haunted are devices used to distract the reader from the true, rather predictable mystery of what really happened to Lauren’s mother. Once again we have a detached family and a teen girl who wants to look to the future, but has to understand her family’s buried past first. And what better way to do that than chasing ghosts?

The end is Scooby-Dooish, but once again the writing is the saving grace. It actually reminded me of the Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine books I used to inhale like they were pixie sticks. Chandler’s talent for sewing seeds of speculation along the way keeps the pages turning. Her endings are too clean for my taste, but I don’t read a lot of mysteries. Maybe tying up every loose end in pretty bows is in keeping with the genre?

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