10 Best Mysteries of 2011–Wall Street Journal
Target Emerging Authors Pick
RT Book Reviews–Reviewers Choice Award Nominee–Best Contemporary Mystery, 2011
THE WALL STREET JOURAL
Best Mystery Novels of 2011 – Emily Arsenault’s absorbing second book, “In Search of the Rose Notes,” is at least as much a novel as a detective story, flashing back and forth in time as two young women in 2006 seek answers to the 1990 disappearance of their teenage babysitter. As in her idiosyncratic debut, “The Broken Teaglass,” Ms. Arsenault here reveals strange truths beneath everyday surfaces and shows that truth sometimes isn’t all that strange.
— full article from The Wall Street Journal
Fiction Reviews, 5/30/11
Starred Review – Arsenault follows her well-received debut, The Broken Teaglass, with a compelling psychological mystery, told from the alternating point of view of the 20-something narrator and her confused preteen self. In 1990, 11-year-old Nora and her best friend, 11-year-old Charlotte, spend many hours with their beloved babysitter, 16-year-old Rose Banks, exploring their dreams, watching scary movies, and poring through Time-Life books about the paranormal. Then Rose suddenly disappears. The girls’ obsessive efforts to divine what happened eventually lead to the end of their close relationship. Sixteen years later, Rose’s body is found, the case reopened. At Charlotte’s insistence, Nora, the last person to see Rose alive, returns home to Waverly, Conn., where it strikes her that her old friends have never really moved on; all harbor both questions and secrets about Rose. Instead of dwelling on fear and pain, Arsenault guides the reader through grief, compassion, and understanding in this emotionally complex and deeply satisfying read. (Aug.)
— full article from Publishers Weekly
Fiction Review, 7/1/11
Eleven-year-old Charlotte loves mysteries and the supernatural. Nora, thoughtful and reserved, follows suit, mostly because bossy Charlotte is her only friend. The girls spend one memorable summer investigating the conundrums they discover in the “black books,” an old series about the supernatural, as Charlotte’s troubled, 16-year old babysitter, Rose, watches over them. Years later, after Nora and Charlotte have made new lives, Rose’s body is discovered, and the young women come together for an awkward reunion to reflect on Rose’s influence on their lives. It’s Nora who is most affected, and her questions about Rose lead her not only to the tragic circumstances of the death but also to the closure of a sad, haunting chapter in her own life. As comfortable writing about the concerns of sixth-grade girls as she is about the emotional lives of young women, Arsenault skips back and forth between “then” (1990) and “now” (2006), slowly unfurling an accomplished, searching tale of sad secrets and lives forever changed.
— Stephanie Zvirin
Fiction Review, 8/14/11
Emily Arsenault’s compelling new book, In Search of the Rose Notes, shuttles back and forth in time as it works out the mysterious disappearance of teenager Rose (“with the dirty-blond hair and even dirtier mouth”), babysitter to Charlotte and the book’s narrator, Nora. Nora speaks both as her 11-year-old self and as an adult who returns to the small Connecticut town of Waverly when Rose’s bones surface near the local pond 16 years after she went missing.
The accounts of past memories are ruled by the younger Charlotte’s fascination with a set of Time-Life books on “Visions and Prophecies,” explored first to probe for the paranormal and later to divine what happened to Rose after she dropped Nora at her house and walked on into apparent oblivion. The present-day action pores over the detritus of adolescence: old poems in the high school literary magazine, classmates still in town, recollections of the de rigueur tragic accident that haunts just about every American teenage memory.
The back-and-forth narrative is remarkably unobtrusive, each passage painting in more and more detail the events clustered around Rose’s disappearance, including portentous glimpses of the surrounding parents, older brothers and others of Rose’s friends, bits that slowly begin to cohere into an achingly sad picture.
Suffusing it all are Nora’s memories of her own psychological fragility and the havoc that adolescence can wreak. This is not so much a nail-biter of suspense as a meticulous piecing together of a mystery as it slowly unfolds out of a neighborhood’s backyards and blind curves and silences and guilt.
— P.G. Koch
RT BOOK REVIEWS (Top Pick)
Fiction Review, 6/12/11
Arsenault returns with a gripping and captivating psychological mystery about lost friendships and buried secrets. This clever narrative bounces between the nostalgic past of the early 1990s and present day, drawing the audience into a well thought-out, complex mystery with an astounding conclusion.
Bonding over their shared love for paranormal studies, 11-year-olds Nora and Charlotte spend their afternoons discussing the supernatural under the supervision of their free-spirited babysitter, 16-year-old Rose. When Rose disappears on her way home from watching the girls, and Nora is the last person to see her, the two young girls take it upon themselves to investigate her disappearance using seances and magic spells gleaned from their books, to no avail. Years later, Nora and Charlotte learn that Rose’s remains have been found, drawing Nora back to her hometown in search of answers. When Nora starts viewing the situation from the perspective of an adult, long-forgotten memories surface.
— Sarah Eisenbraun
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
Fiction Review, 7/26/11
Adult/High School–Nora was only 11 in 1990 when she became the last person to see her babysitter alive. Rose left Nora at her house and continued up the road into terrible oblivion. Sixteen years later, Nora finds out from her best friend, Charlotte, that Rose’s bones have finally been found. Pulled back to the small town of her childhood, Nora relives the innocent days before the teen’s disappearance, when Rose, Nora, and Charlotte could spend hours perusing volumes from a Time-Life series on the supernatural. All of the mysterious, hidden elements of the universe seemed revealed in those pages. After Rose vanished, there continued to be an aura of supernatural influences surrounding her absence. Readers discover that something terrible happened during Nora’s high school days that cast doubt on her ability to accurately describe the past or the present. Enigmatic poems (written by whom?) and scribbled entries in Rose’s school notebook both blur and reveal the truth. Teens who like psychological thrillers will enjoy figuring out the puzzle. As the book circles around the events preceding Rose’s disappearance, the high school years of Nora and Charlotte, and the discovery of Rose’s bones in 2006, readers are continually challenged to sift through myriad strands of information, guarded conversations, and misleading perceptions. This is a great book for long summer days; once started, it’s very hard to put down.
—Diane Colson, New Port Richey Library, FL
Fiction Review, 9/11/11
“In Search of the Rose Notes” (William Morrow Trade Paperbacks, $14.99) by Emily Arsenault is a psychological mystery that tells parallel stories about the present and the adolescent memories of Nora.
Nora and Charlotte were best friends at age 11, when their teenage baby sitter, Rose, disappeared. Nora was the last to see her alive. The girls used a collection of Time-Life books on paranormal techniques to try to solve the mystery of her disappearance. Their investigation failed, and the girls ended up angry at each other. Nora made a halfhearted attempt at suicide and remained apart and alone for the rest of her high school years.
Now in her 20s, Nora receives a call from Charlotte to tell her that Rose’s bones have been discovered. Nora returns to her old neighborhood and renews her friendship with Charlotte. Nora is determined to find out how Rose died and to revisit her adolescent years. She has never told her husband anything truthful about her school days. She has borrowed bits from John Hughes’ movies and adapted them as her own experiences.
As she gets to know Charlotte again, she begins to realize why they stopped being friends. Charlotte was a spoiled child and bullied Nora a bit. As they grew older, Charlotte hung out with the popular crowd, and Nora was left alone. She connects with other people from her past, and from them, she gradually pieces together what happened to Rose.
“In Search of the Rose Notes” feels like a beautifully written secret, whispered into the reader’s ear about the lives of two former best friends now tied together only by a mystery. This is a smart, creative and utterly charming novel.“
“An enthralling, extremely well-written novel . . . a definite stay-up-all-nighter. I couldn’t rest until I found out what had happened to Rose.“