"Strings Attached," a young adult mystery from Judy Blundell

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011; 8:03 PM

STRINGS ATTACHED

By Judy Blundell

Scholastic. $17.99. Ages 13-18

Judy Blundell follows her 2008 National Book Award winner, "What I Saw and How I Lied," with an intense young-adult mystery cut from the same midcentury-noir cloth but, if possible, even more intricately stitched. Family secrets are the warp and weft of this novel, too.

At 17, Kit Corrigan, a talented dancer, has left her home in Providence, R.I., for a Broadway dream. The reality, though, is a low-paying gig in a musical flop and nights on a rented couch. Enter Nate Benedict, the mob-attorney father of Kit's brooding ex-boyfriend, Billy, now a soldier in the Korean War. Nate sets Kit up with an apartment and a glamorous nightclub job but "requests" that she resume contact with Billy, from whom he is estranged. Blundell skillfully threads extended flashbacks through the first-person narrative, as Kit comes to realize Nate's shady connection, over the years, to her father and to pretty Aunt Delia.

Stylish prose creates a sense of time and place, from the New England back yards where "tomato plants and grapevines competed with shrines to the Virgin Mary" to Manhattan's predawn "quiet, gray and silver" streets to the "eerie . . . apprehension" of air-raid drills. As past is pieced to present, the story moves to a murder, a multi-generational showdown and, amid shattering surprises, the sense that family forms the fabric - colorful and torn - of Kit's life.

- Mary Quattlebaum


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