Publisher: Balzer & Bray, January 2016
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when Imogene was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”Now Imogene is seventeen, and her father, a famous author of medical mysteries, has struck out in the middle of the night and hasn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. And she decides it’s up to her to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of reading her father’s books to track down a woman she’s only known in stories in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life.Rebecca Podos’s debut is a powerful, affecting story of the pieces of ourselves that remain mysteries even to us, and the desperate search through empty spaces for something to hold on to.
Imogene Scott’s world revolves around her dad. Sure, she’s got friends, interests, and a crush like any other seventeen-year-old, but the connection she shares with her dad, well, it’s different. Since her mom left when Imogene was a child, her dad has been her rock. So when he goes missing one day, she’s determined to find him.
Podos’ debut, The Mystery of Hollow Places, follows Imogene on her hunt to find her father, a medical mystery writer, after he disappears one day. At first, I thought this would be a murder mystery, whodunit style. Instead Podos delves into a psychological mystery/treasure hunt that looks back into Imogene’s past.
I adored the psychological aspect of it; Imogene’s detective skills are pretty good, and her constant literary references to everything from Rebecca to Sherlock Holmes made me laugh. The mystery of why her mom left, where she is now, and why her father disappeared keeps this element moving along at a pretty good pace.
When it came to Imogene herself, I had mixed feelings. Her literary references and habit of carrying a favorite paperback around with her everywhere was charming, but the way she treated other people irritated me. She uses Jessa, the girl she doesn’t name as her best friend until a good third into the book, constantly, but makes snarky remarks behind her back about her looks. She does treat Jessa better as the story progresses, but it’s not until the end that she’s actually grateful for what’s a pretty fantastic friend.
This same disregard stretches to her stepmother, Lindy. Lindy was portrayed as stunning (like Jessa), always put together (like Jessa), and Imogene made subtle snarky remarks in her narrative (like she does with Jessa). Again, Imogene progresses, and the last scene with Lindy made me cry, but it wasn’t enough to redeem her behavior. The amount of insecurity I felt coming from Imogene wasn’t endearing. It frustrated me and made it hard to cheer for her.
However, Mystery brings up a few sensitive topics: grief, depression, and the struggle of raising a child as a single parent. Imogene’s dad fights through many of these issues along with Imogene, and gives a voice to depression. I loved Podos’ emphasis on a support system – it’s hard to make it through life without one.
There were parts of Mystery that I loved and parts that just didn’t sit well with me. It’s not the psychological thriller I was expecting, but the discussion of the tough subjects makes it well worth a read.