Fadeaway Girl: A Novel
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2011
Bestselling mystery writer Martha Grimes --- creator of the popular Richard Jury novels, which carry the names of quaint pubs in picturesque British villages --- offers the third installment of a new mystery series featuring Emma Graham, a precocious American 12-year-old who lives in a small Southern town.

Emma's return in FADEAWAY GIRL resolves the mystery surrounding the mysterious 20-year-old disappearance of a baby that began in COLD FLAT JUNCTION. It has been just three weeks since Emma nearly lost her life to a murderess in the sequel, BELLE RUIN. Emma, whose extracurricular activities include a job as a cub reporter for the local newspaper, has been writing a serialized story of her misadventure. It all began when she started looking into the alleged kidnapping during her free time between hopping tables and prepping salads at her mother's genteel hotel and restaurant, and running rum-filled drinks to the attic apartment where her ancient Great Aunt Augusta sits, sips and holds court.

Emma's poring over old newspaper stories results in only minimal success, and futile attempts to pry information out of the local sheriff have turned her into a sleuth. Her snooping nearly cost her her young life as she probed the long-ago disappearance of the baby from a hotel that later burned to the ground and that event's possible links to two unsolved murders. Her keen interest in getting to the truth behind all the niggling loose ends that either elude or are ignored by those she thinks should care leads her into dangerous waters as she gets closer to unraveling the mystery. She asks questions of the gabby but unhelpful local cab driver on whom she must rely to travel from one tiny rustic village to another. The deputy sheriff, who makes Gomer Pyle seem as astute as Sherlock Homes, dodges her. Her inquisition of hotel employees, the librarian and the newspaper editor are met with indulgence for her writing ambitions.

When a handsome and charming stranger, Ralph, or "Rafe" as he prefers to be called, suddenly turns up and is hired by her mother at the hotel, Emma sees through his smooth façade. Believing his comings and goings are suspicious, she shadows him both in and out of the hotel. Soon after Rafe arrives, the father of the kidnapped child, Morris Slade, whose disreputable playboy behavior made him a prime suspect at the time of the kidnapping, returns to his hometown after 20 years, raising the eyebrows of everyone who knew him. When yet another body turns up, this time in an abandoned shack, Emma is once again in danger.

Emma's quirky family, which includes her mother, who is diverted by the necessity of keeping a ramshackle hotel and restaurant afloat, leaves her two creative offspring to fend for themselves. Her theatrically inclined older brother, who spends his days writing, directing and producing plays in the barn, and Great Aunt Augusta, who will drink anything if it has enough alcohol and sugar in it, are wonderfully rich characters. This is a stock in trade for Grimes, whose colorful patrons of her famous British pubs keep readers coming back for more.

Will we see more of Emma in future novels? A mysterious girl, thus the title of the book, who fades into the shadows when Emma, and only Emma, spies her in the trees or near a pond, is never explained. In fact, Emma suspects she herself may be going crazy, like her poor friend, Ree-Jane. She is assured by her aunt, the sheriff and her doctor that she's far too smart and observant to be losing her mind, but Emma is not quite so sure. Grimes never closes any door that would lead her fans to an entertaining read.

--- Reviewed by Roz Shea
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 28, 2011
I came upon this book quite by accident at my local branch of the Public Library. The sight of the familiar image of one of Coles Phillips' "fadeaway girls" on the dust jacket was irresistible, even though I'm fairly sure that it is reversed from its original Life Magazine appearance.

The book isn't bad either--not great, but certainly not bad and definitely a couple of notches better than the latest handful of the author's Richard Jury series of whodunits.

I gather that "Fadeaway Girl" is the fourth in a series of tales about what must undoubtedly be regarded as an incident-filled summer of a twelve-year-old girl, Emma Graham, in semi-rural Maryland. Martha Grimes has become an author who shuns resolution. This book ties off a lot of plot lines that plainly originated in the three predecessor volumes, but just as plainly lays out a tangle of loose ends to be taken up in Emma's subsequent adventures.

In scanning over earlier Amazon reviews, I noticed that readers have been advised to read the books in order or warned that the amount of background information to be absorbed is a substantial barrier to enjoying this book. Having entered in medias res, so to speak, I find that I don't agree. Starting with Chapter 1, it is clear that a lot of stuff has already happened around Emma, fine, and then more stuff starts happening, equally fine as far as I was concerned.

This is a book of textures not often found in series whodunits. One such texture has to do with place. Emma's world seems to consist of a rough circle of perhaps a dozen miles in radius around her home town, which is by no means the largest of the small towns in her narrowly circumscribed universe. Virtually none of the background chatter that we all endure seems to enter Emma's cloistered world, not sports, not politics, not even weather.

There is the matter of time, another texture. When is this summer of wonders taking place? Innocently opening the book, I had no reason not to assume that Emma's time was my time--until Emma gives a cab driver a fifteen-cent tip. Emma is clearly not residing in my twenty-first century. Emma tells us that a kidnapping took place over twenty years earlier, at a time when Veronica Lake was a major Hollywood star and occupying.a prominent space in Photoplay Magazine. Emma also lets us know that she is a fan of the Perry Mason TV series. Using those two fixed points, Emma's floreat must be somewhere between 1962 and 1966, a very curious time-period for even a twelve-year-old to be so entirely oblivious to the world at large.

And why am I so sure that it is summertime? Well, the weather is pretty good in Emma's Maryland and neither she nor her brother nor her young acquaintances are in school, nor does anyone expect them to be there. Summertime.

The final texture I'll mention is Emma herself. Emma is the central figure in the four published novels in this series. But it should be plain to anyone who has read the Richard Jury series that Emma has appeared in every book. She appears under a different name in each book and very occasionally as a boy, but she's always there: a wise-beyond-her-years, undisciplined, unregimented, food-and-drink- handling feral child. Emma-of-the-thousand-masks. In the current series, the ubiquitous child has even divided amoeba-like into the front-and-center Emma Graham and her slightly older, theatrically-inclined brother, a background figure--so far.

Like all of Grimes' feral children, Emma is effectively without family ties. I assert this even though Emma's mother quite regularly turns up on the pages of the book. But just consider those appearances. Emma's unnamed mother is almost always distantly called "my mother." Emma's mother is always working as a cook in the hotel where they live. Her comments to Emma as limited entirely to matters of food preparation and serving. Emma praises her mother's cooking, but nothing else. The mother-daughter relationship is expressed in strictly pro-forma terms.

The appearance of a feral child in a book is of no significance in itself. The repeated appearance of that child in book after book, culminating in a lengthy series built around her strongly suggests that she represents a matter of huge importance to Martha Grimes.On the one hand, I am curious as to what it might be; on the other, I hope I never find out.

If your taste runs to character-driven mysteries with a leisurely--to say the least--attitude toward tying up loose ends, this is the book for you. For myself, I enjoyed the book and I'll read the next entry in the series when it comes out, although I don't think I'll bother with the earlier books.

Four feral, undisciplined but oddly fascinated stars.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2011
Spoiler alert!!!
I am a fan of Martha Grimes. I really am. I enjoy the Emma Graham series even more than the Richard Jury books. The characters in this series are incredibly entertaining, and I have come to love them all. I was waiting for this next installment for what seemed like an eternity; pretty much since I finished the last paragraph of Belle Ruin. My great anticipation set my expectations very high.

The first part of this book seemed to recycle a lot of old news from the previous books, and, even though well-written and amusing, I found that a bit frustrating. The latter part grudgingly yielded a few new bits of the bigger puzzle and, as a result, was more satisfying to me. As new information unfolded, though, it was unclear to me how we got there. In Emma-speak, I wanted the back story.

It was a very, very long wait between Belle Ruin and Fadeway Girl, and I am beginning to have doubt that my many questions will ever have resolution. Please, Martha Grimes, I beseech you, don't let us wait too long to learn answers to:

Who is The Girl? an apparation of Rose Queen, Fern Queen, or someone else entirely?
Who is the mother of Fey/Rafe Diggs? Rose?
How did Imogene and her father learn that Morris Slade was the adopted baby's real father?
Why does Morris Slade feel a debt to Ben Queen?
Why did Rose and Fern Queen "go away" for awhile?
What horrible thing did Rose do?
Did Morris and Fern have something going on?
Is Imogene still alive and why didn't Fey/Rafe go after her and her father for their dastardly deed?
How did Fey/Rafe find out Morris was his father; how did they come to meet at Brokedown House?
Why did Morris say the Sheriff didn't "deserve" the story?
How did Morris learn the truth about Fey/Rafe?
Did Isabel Barnett really see a baby with Down's syndrome? If so, who was it?
Why are the Grahams so subservient to Lola Davidow?
What is the true nature of Jen Graham's and Lola's relationship?
What happened to Emma's father?
Who killed Fern Queen?
Are we certain Fern killed Rose?

The book certainly has provoked some interesting discussion and theories among fans in my circle. That's a pretty good legacy for a book, I think.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2012
If you don't happen to have a fabulous memory or haven't read Hotel Paradise, Cold Flat Junction, and Belle Ruin recently, you'll have to go back and do that to have any hope of enjoying this next in the series, Fadeaway Girl. The author supplies next to no background, though we are reminded at least half a dozen times that the protagonist is twelve years old. Not even a preface or frontispiece sketch fills in the new reader, and very little in the way of plot summaries for the previous works are available online. So consider yourself forewarned: without the previous tales firmly in mind, you'll be baffled that this got the good professional reviews it did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Twelve-year-old Emma Graham is the precocious protagonist/narrator of Fadeaway Girl, precocious being the operative word. Emma's pretty busy for a pre-adolescent, waiting tables at the restaurant where her mother cooks, concocting exotic alcoholic cocktails for her aging aunt, and, in her spare time, solving decades-old cold cases of kidnapping. The bones of this story, and this series, are good. The problem lies within Emma as main character. The town in which she resides is small, a place where everyone knows everyone, and everyone seems to accept that Emma's wise beyond her years. She writes serious pieces for the local newspaper. Her vocabulary is prodigious, her deductions and insights penetrating and astute, and her powers of observation the best in town. All the adults with whom she interacts are, well, her inferiors when it comes to smarts. Therein lies the problem - all this genius is admirable in a character like Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple. In a child, after the first moments of wonder, it becomes an distracting annoyance. There are moments of humor and moments of pathos, but it's hard to sustain interest in an investigation lead by a moppet, unless you're a moppet yourself.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2011
I have read every Martha Grimes book including the previous ones in this series and am therefore at a loss as to why I am not enjoying this book as I usually love her books. This book is very disconnected and repetitive. I am starting to actually dislike the main character Emma. She is becoming somewhat unbelievable - yes I know it is a book, but up until now she has been a good believable character, now she is annoyingly too adult in her thinking and actions and seems to be running around doing the same thing over and over. I am half way through the book and bored. I don't really see the point of the story up till now and am hoping it will get better but don't know if I can be bothered to finish it. Very disappointing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2012
Another trip into the mind of inventive and sardonic Emma Graham,twelve-year-old master drink mixer and dectective who with absolute logic and intuition solves another crime, much to the distress of the guilty adults. The cover art embedded into the story adds another dimension of creativity. This is a perfect example of how good a book can and should be, and how an editorial staff of a publishing company can work with a writer to give us something this great.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"The Fadeaway Girl" is a the 4th book of the Emma Graham Series. I haven't read the first three so this was my first introduction to our 12 year old protagonist. In this book Emma attempts to solve the mystery behind the disappearance of baby Fey, while writing a chronological account of the strange crimes in Cold Flat Junction, for the newspaper where she is junior reporter. The crime happened more than 20 years ago, so memories are jaded and clues unavailable.

Now, while Grimes writes well, the beauty of a first-rate mystery novel (which this probably is) was slightly marred for me because there are too many back-references to events which happened in the previous books. This left me feeling a little left in the dark, and frustrated - kind of like I had missed the first half of a really intriguing film.

The good news is that I still liked this book - an ode to Grimes's skill. Grimes has unusually detailed descriptive powers, something I look for in an author and appreciate a good deal. But it is not just pure description which appeals here, but the author's prowess in putting it across in a human, specific point-of-view way. By giving her characters such (and you could call them judgemental) voices she delineates them in a way that mere detail wouldn't.

Grimes's fans have a treat in store, and to the uninitiated - read the series in order; you will enjoy it a great deal more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2012
I've been an avid Martha Grimes fan for years. Her Inspector Richard Jury mysteries set in England are in a class by themselves.
With the Emma Graham series, Grimes has taken a wide departure from English mysteries, and created a mystery that has at its center, the wonderful character of Emma. She's a young girl (about 12-13 years old), who quietly goes about her business of trying to solve a decades-old mystery or two.
It's the remarkable characters in these series that make them so much fun. Emma is extremely curious and intelligent. She has a wicked sense of humor, knows the foibles of the other characters and uses this knowledge to extract information about crimes that were committed long before she was born.
Emma goes about her detecting business surrounded by fey, quirky, crazy but endearing characters, who she masterfully manipulates to get the information she needs.

Set in the 1950's, in what I believe is the Maryland/West Virginia area where Emma lives in a guest hotel with her mother, brother and assorted relatives.

If a reader starts with the first book called "Hotel Paradise", they will be hooked and will have to get the sequels. These are books one wants to keep, to share out to friends, and because we know we will want to read them again!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2011
I've enjoyed this series more than the Jury mysteries. Yes, it's hard to believe in this precocious 12 year old sleuth, but that doesn't matter. She's an engaging character. However, the story seems to be fizzling out rather than coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Perhaps the writer is getting fed up and just wants to be done with it. I missed some cherished characters--ones that added so much to the earlier books were relegated to the sidelines. Some were barely mentioned. A story that started out so character rich, has now devolved to a series of disconnected events. The story has also become so complicated, it's really hard to keep track of everything, even if you have read the previous books, and the attempts to fill us in simply add to the confusion. I got the Kindle edition and for a while, I was convinced I was missing some chapters or I had gotten some lesser, abridged version, because the story seemed so disconnected and skimpy.

There is enough skillful writing in the story to merit a reading, but I was disappointed. I don't feel that the early promise of this series has been fulfilled in this book.
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