Title: All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
A young woman haunted by a family tragedy is caught up in a dangerous web of lies and deception involving a secret society in this highly charged, addictive psychological thriller that combines the dishy gamesmanship of Gossip Girl with the murky atmosphere of The Secret History.
One summer day, Grace Fairchild, the beautiful young wife of real estate mogul Alistair Calloway, vanished from the family’s lake house without a trace, leaving behind her seven-year old daughter, Charlie, and a slew of unanswered questions.
Years later, seventeen-year-old Charlie still struggles with the dark legacy of her family name and the mystery surrounding her mother. Determined to finally let go of the past, she throws herself into life at Knollwood, the prestigious New England school she attends. Charlie quickly becomes friends with Knollwood’s “it” crowd.
Charlie has also been tapped by the A’s—the school’s elite secret society well known for terrorizing the faculty, administration, and their enemies. To become a member of the A’s, Charlie must play The Game, a semester-long, diabolical high-stakes scavenger hunt that will jeopardize her friendships, her reputation, even her place at Knollwood.
As the dark events of past and present converge, Charlie begins to fear that she may not survive the terrible truth about her family, her school, and her own life.
Weaving back and forth in time, All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth is an engaging young adult mystery.
In 2007, seven year old Charlotte “Charlie” Calloway’s mother Grace Fairchild vanished without a trace. From a working class background, Grace’s marriage to wealthy Alistair Calloway was rather volatile at the time of her disappearance. The subsequent investigation into the case yields an unexpected clue that points to Grace leaving of her own volition. However, troubling evidence at the family’s lakeside home casts a few doubts on this supposition. With no new leads, Grace’s disappearance remains a mystery and life for Alistair, Charlie and younger sister, Seraphina slowly returned to normal.
In 2017, Charlie is in her junior year at the prestigious Knollwood Prep School where she is elated to be chosen as an initiate for the elite, secret society, the “A’s”. She, her cousin, Leo and best friend Drew are very excited about becoming a full-fledged member of the club. In order to secure their positions, each of them must complete the three tasks that have been assigned to them. As Charlie begins her quest to become an “A”, her Uncle Hank unexpectedly shows up Knollwood to let her know he has found a very troubling set of pictures that might be linked to her mother’s disappearance. Reluctantly drawn into uncovering the truth about what happened to Grace, Charlie stumbles onto shocking information that could destroy her family.
Charlie is self-absorbed, spoiled and entitled. She gives little thought to anyone but herself and quite frankly, it is unsurprising she has few friends. Charlie has trust issues so she comes across as somewhat standoffish and due to her family’s wealth and position in society, she is a bit arrogant. Determined to become a full-fledged member of the “A’s”, Charlie eagerly fulfills the first two tasks assigned to her.
As she tries to solve the mystery of Grace’s disappearance, Charlie becomes reacquainted with her mother’s best friend, Claire, and Claire’s son, Greyson. A lot of the details that Charlie discovers occur by happenstance since the information literally falls in her lap. She does track down every lead she finds and through a series of startling coincidences, Charlie finds a stunning connection that eventually reveals the truth about what happened to her mother.
All These Beautiful Strangers is an engrossing mystery although the cast of unlikable characters and unpalatable dating game are a bit off-putting. The flashbacks about Grace are more interesting than the story arc in the present. While there are some unexpected plot twists, savvy readers will most likely have little trouble figuring out the truth about Grace’s disappearance. In the end, the only real uncertainty swirls around Charlie and her unexpected chance at redemption. All in all, this enjoyable debut by Elizabeth Klehfoth will appeal to both older teens and adult readers.