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I’ve recommended books by Mindy McGinnis in this newsletter before, but please forgive me for getting excited about this newest release. McGinnis has a way of creating dark, sharp-edged stories I can’t get enough of, and this newest release was no exception!
A Long Stretch of Bad Days by Mindy McGinnis
Lydia Class is a Good Girl, from a Nice Family in her small town of Henley, Ohio. Bristol Jamison is her opposite in every way. But when they’re both screwed over by their guidance counselor and left short one history credit in order to graduate, Lydia senses an opportunity. She recruits Bristol and convinces the administration to give them a credit in exchange for doing a podcast on their town’s local history. By exploring the Long Stretch of Bad Days — a three-day period in the 90’s when the town was decimated by a tornado, a flash flood killed every dog at the shelter, and the town’s only murder victim was discovered — Lydia is hoping to impress the Ivy Leagues with her reporting chops. And Bristol will add just the right amount of grit and local color to her podcast to get them listens. But Bristol has no interest in being anyone’s pawn, and when they uncover a discrepancy in the tornado coverage, it leads to a decades-only cold case that no one is looking into.
Mindy McGinnis is really good at writing worn-down small towns with dark crevices, but she doesn’t vilify small towns either. As someone who grew up in a small Midwestern town, I appreciate the complicated mix of emotions she brings to a story like this — the yearning to get out, the stifling feeling that everyone is watching you, the entrapment of small town expectations, and also the grudging affection for the place you call home. Lydia and Bristol must confront all this and more, especially as Lydia reckons with how her position differs from Bristol’s as someone who isn’t rich, but considerably more privileged as a founding family member. The mystery in this book is a bit of slow burn, but that’s okay. There’s plenty of local color, interesting tension, and weird small town vibes to keep readers hooked until a darker story emerges. And once the girls see a mystery that has been overlooked, they can’t un-see it, and they’re compelled to investigate, even when forces seem to be pushing against them. Even when it seems like the case might dead end into nothing. McGinnis does a great job of making every element of their investigation matter, and the way everything comes together is extremely clever. If you’re a fan of gritty mysteries, but also reluctant friends, small towns, and unexpected twists, pick this one up!
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