Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 14 October 2014
Format: Paperback, 336 pgs
Source: ARC from the Publisher
Fifteen-year-old Samantha and her younger sister, Ollie, stay with their father, Frank "Bear" McAlister, in a meadow by the Crooked River in rural Oregon after the death of their mother. Bear is a beekeeper and believes that bees recognise those who cherish them and they won't sting if one comes to their hives humble and gracious.
The girls' grandmother wanted to fight for their custody, but she's willing to give Bear a chance after her husband's probing; plus their mother trusted him. Ollie has not talked since their mother's death; they all thought she would once the shock is over but Ollie remains silent. She's able to see ghosts too (she calls them The Shimmering).
While wandering through the woods one day, they found a young woman floating in Crooked River; she was dead. They later found a bloodstained jacket in Bear's satchel after returning to their teepee, and this made Sam wonder about his whereabouts the previous night he was gone. Sam wanted to ask Bear but didn't have the chance; but when that chance came she decided she won't say anything. She's afraid that the others will see only what they want to see, not what is actually there. But most of all, she wants to believe in him although other people sees him as eccentric.
Although there are evidence that points to Bear, Sam and Ollie still think that the police has caught the wrong person. Not wanting to see their family come crumbling down, Sam, together with Ollie, decided to take matters into their own hands and search for clues. While Sam goes about digging information, Ollie, on the other end, has The Shimmering to guide her to the right direction, if only Sam wants to accept and see through it.
Crooked River is one fine literary mystery with a supernatural element to it. Emotional and character - driven, this is a story about family, friendship, secrets and of course, ghosts which are around us even if we can't see them.
I've to admit I was a little skeptical over the supernatural element initially, but after reading halfway through I began to see why this is "injected" into the story. It may not be the mystery itself, but it allows the readers to understand how they'd make an impact on the sisters.
What interest me is not only the mystery but the interactions between the sisters. I liked Ollie especially not because she's smart but she's extremely brave too. What they have gone through is tough, but they have also made them stronger and more matured. Told in Sam and Ollie's perspectives through alternating chapter, I find this style to be appropriate and effective as their emotions and thoughts are well described through their distinctive voice. I really enjoyed this story; however I felt the closure isn't satisfying. The mystery, no doubt, is revealed but what becomes of some characters are unknown. I would, however, let it go with my hunch.