Reviewed by Molly Martin
The Night The Penningtons Vanished
by Marianne Heusler
Paperback: 201 pages, March 31, 2002, ISBN-13: 978-0971437005
Isabella Ripa does know she is not to open the boutique door whenever Aunt Tallulah is not present. Aunt Tallulah is not present as The Reader begins to read Marianna Huesler’s The Night The Penningtons Vanished. The sophisticated woman at the door appears to be nearly frantic, and, Aunt Tallulah present or not, Isabella does open the door nonetheless. Consequently, Isabella commences upon an escapade jam-packed with homicide, disappearing, intrigue, maneuvering and collusion. Isabella as well as her older sister are wards of Aunt Tallulah following the girls’ father’s death in addition to their abandonment by their mother. Isabella, along with Vicki and Lauren, her two dearest friends, set out to determine what has become of the Penningtons. The quest leads the girls to just about becoming victims of a distressed con man who has already killed and is prepared to murder again.
Huesler’s first book Buried in the Townhouse was a charming, fast paced mystery filled with memorable characters set against a backdrop of humor and surprises. The Night The Penningtons Vanished is a mystery as well, however, this one is for the younger set. I found The Night The Penningtons Vanished to be a well-crafted work occupied with believable characters. Isabella is a bit overweight, eats too much, and, as are her friends, is inclined to jump to conclusions, like many fifteen-year-olds in today’s society. Vicki and Lauren prove perfect foils to Isabella’s investigating. Carla, the older sister, is an egocentric girl, who is angry at the world, will not study, and, is driving Aunt Tallulah up the wall. All in all, Carla behaves much as do many seventeen-year-olds who are not quite little kid and is not at all an adult, doesn’t like the situation she has been thrust into, dad’s death, abandonment, and now living with an Aunt she is not sure she likes, and doesn’t know how to make things better.
Discourse between the characters is credible, believable and plausible as the girls wrangle among themselves, tussle with Aunt Tallulah and seemingly snag setups, circumstances and explanations out of the air to describe what is happening. Heusler’s capability for portrayal, scene setting and elucidation serves her well, The reader is drawn right into settings: we see the frightening, feel the cold, and taste the bitterness. The storyline is well plotted, moves along from first pages to final paragraphs without problem, and culminates with a satisfying conclusion.
Be prepared for a surprise or two along the way.
The Night The Penningtons Vanished is sure to please many mature middle school readers as well as the young adult set. Parents, teachers and home schoolers alike will find The Night The Penningtons Vanished a valuable addition to their library.