I recently listened to The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos on audio. I enjoyed this teen/YA novel that is a unique mix of mystery and family drama.
Seventeen-year old Imogene has never known her mother, who left her and her father when Imogene was just a baby. All she knows is the bedtime story her father used to tell her, about how they met. He was a medical examiner, and her mother was a woman who came to identify the body of her dead mother. He romanticized the story and added a touch of magic. Now, Imogene lives with her father and her stepmother, Libby. Imogene’s father left the medical profession and is now a well-known author of medical mysteries starring a forensic pathologist.
But now, Imogene’s father is missing. She and Libby wake up one morning to find him gone without a trace. He left only one thing, on Imogene’s bed – a special object that was associated with the bedtime story he always told her about her mother. Imogene is convinced that it’s a clue he left to tell her that he went to find her mother. She decides to track down her father – and maybe her mother, too? – on her own, using what she’s learned from reading her father’s novels and trying to think like his protagonist. Imogene is a private person and doesn’t want to share all this family saga, but she reluctantly asks her best friend, Jessa, to help her. Imogene’s search has some dead ends but also leads her to places and people she never expected.
This novel has an intricate and unique storyline that imbeds a classic mystery – with clues, leads, and trails to follow – into the center of an unusual family drama. Imogene clearly needs to know more about her mother, who forms a part of her identity and whose absence has never been explained. Meanwhile, at home, her stepmother, Libby, tries to get closer to Imogene and be her mother, but Imogene is resistant to her advances. In contrast, she sees Jessa’s family who seem like a completely normal, ideal-type American family. There’s even a touch of romance here, as Imogene has had a crush for many years on Jessa’s older brother.
The story follows Imogene as she tracks down clues, investigates her family’s past, and tries to figure out where her mother went all those years ago, and where her father went recently. At the same time, though, she must navigate normal adolescent challenges – school, boys, the prom. It’s clear that solving these mysteries is about more than just finding her father; it’s about figuring out who she is and why her mother left. This intricate blend of mystery, family drama, and teen life is compelling and full of unexpected twists and turns.