I picked up Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham by accident. I remembered that I had a book on my to-read list that was something-Undercover (Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown, as it happens) but I had forgotten what so I decided to check Scarlett out. Even once I figured out my mistake, I was pleasantly intrigued by the premise of the story and decided to finish it. And it wasn’t bad. However, it never lived up to its potential.
Plot: Scarlett is a smart, fifteen-year-old Muslim-American orphan who runs a detective business. When she gets hired to investigate the suicide of a local teenager, she assumes the case will be pretty open and closed. However, she quickly stumbles into something much larger and more dangerous, something that might even lead her to solve her Father’s murder.
Thoughts: I’m a sucker for a good noir style detective story and I was drawn to Scarlet Undercover‘s promise of just that. I was excited for the unusual heroine and I was even down with the fantasy/mythical/chosen one style mystery that went along with her. The story does live up to some of its promise. However, as the book progressed, I grew more and more confused about what was going on. There is a magical ring that plays a large role in the last half and all I could think of was:
But seriously. Rings…cults…magic…churches…Jewish boys…guardian angels…end of the world…this plot is everywhere. It is a lot to take in. Plus, there are too many characters. I kept forgetting people. The story starts out simply enough but blows up into something enormous. Yet even with this sprawling plot, I never felt the enormity of the situation. Perhaps the problem is with Scarlett, who never quite seems to believe it either. She takes everything in stride, follows flashes of intuition, and even during the climax is confident and sassy. She never seemed to believe the artifacts were magical and so I never felt it either.
However, I really did like Scarlett. She’s tough and sassy and fun to read. She doesn’t get bogged down in angst. The romance was unbelievable but there is basically no development of it so you don’t have to put up with more than an occasional paragraph.
Overall, I didn’t dislike anything overly much about this story, I just felt ambivalent or confused about a lot. It is nice to see some cultural and ethnic diversity in a YA heroine. I’d read more by this author. I don’t necessarily recommend this one, though.