Phoebe Hall has survived the break-up of her long-term relationship and being falsely accused of plagiarizing her most recent book, a celebrity biography that, like her previous work, hit the bestseller list. Her friend since childhood, Glenda, has landed a job as the president of a small private college in Pennsylvania and offered Phoebe the chance to join the faculty. Hoping for solace and the chance to get her life and career back on track, Phoebe eagerly accepts the position and begins settling into her new role as a professor.
But the term is barely underway when the body of a female coed is discovered in the nearby river and Phoebe is disturbed by the brief, but memorable conversation she had with the young woman shortly before her death. Even more alarming is the fact that the student’s boyfriend also went missing the previous spring.
Glenda is one of only a few people who know about Phoebe’s traumatic days at the private boarding school they attended together. Because she trusts Phoebe, she asks her to put her investigative reporting skills to work investigating allegations that there is a secret society operating on campus known as The Sixes. Phoebe quickly confirms the existence of the organization, but when she begins digging deeper into its membership, purpose, and activities, she finds herself the target of a campaign of terror. Before long, Phoebe is not sure who, if anyone, she can trust. Equally alarming is the fact that someone other than Glenda seems to know details about Phoebe’s past. But who? How did they learn about what happened all those years ago and why do they seem bent on destroying Phoebe’s life and robbing her of the second chance Glenda has provided her?
Once again, author Kate White has crafted a spell-binding, contemporary and extremely entertaining mystery that is guaranteed to disrupt readers’ sleep patterns, keeping them up well past their bedtimes in order to read just a few more pages!
The setting is quaint and seemingly serene college campus, replete with charm, character, and evil lurking beneath the idyllic surface. A brief rainy-day encounter with one of her female students does not seem particularly relevant to Phoebe until she realizes that the young woman’s body is being recovered from the nearby river. The young woman’s inquiries further rattle Phoebe who is just setting into her new home and temporary career after being unceremoniously dumped by her long-time boyfriend and caught being less than diligent in her supervision of the research performed by her assistants that formed the basis for her most recent book. She owes her publisher another book, but is in an understandable writing slump when her trust old friend, Glenda, asks her to delve into recent campus events.
Phoebe is intelligent, attractive, extremely competent, and harbors memories of difficult days during which Glenda proved to be her only real friend. She feels loyalty to Glenda and wants very much to help Glenda salvage her own fledgling career as the college’s president. After all, Glenda has offered her the refuge she so desperately needs. And upon learning the identity of the dead student, Phoebe is compelled to find out the truth about her death. Thus, Phoebe is both believable and empathetic. Her motives are sincere.
What Phoebe uncovers could be straight off the front page of any college town newspaper in America today. Given recent stories about cyber-stalking and bullying, White’s tale of a secret society operating on campus is not so far-fetched as to lack credulity. The Sixes is comprised of female students who must perform various tasks in order to rise through the organization’s ranks. But Phoebe must figure out who is running the group, what they hope to accomplish, how members are recruited, and, perhaps most importantly, what kinds of behavior is expected from the members. Even though Phoebe’s investigation is confidential, there are a few folks beyond Glenda who are aware of her activities, providing White the opportunity to gradually make each and every supporting character a suspect as Phoebe is systematically terrorized.
There is romance, of course. Phoebe finds herself reluctantly drawn to the charming Duncan, but he is not above her suspicions, either, when salient facts about his personal life and career come to light. Duncan seems to be squarely in Phoebe’s corner, but is his affection for her genuine or merely feigned in order to keep her from discovering the truth?
The more Phoebe learns about The Sixes and their operations, she finds herself increasingly in danger. White expertly ramps up the story’s pace as the pieces of the puzzle beginning falling into place, but keeps readers in suspense, holding back key bits of information until the very end. The result is a taut and believable mystery yarn that is every bit as entertaining as last year’s Hush, demonstrating yet again that Kate White is one of today’s best authors of mysteries geared toward female readers. I highly recommend The Sixes.