cover image WINTER


John Marsden, . . Scholastic, $16.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-439-36849-0

Like Marsden's Letters from the Inside, this engrossing Australian novel features a tough teenage heroine and puzzles aplenty. Sixteen-year-old Winter returns to Warriewood, her late parents' estate, under circumstances that only gradually become clear. Winter, sharp-tongued and iron-willed, has refused to stay any longer with the Robinsons, her guardians for the past 12 years. "Something had always bothered me," she explains, "Some nagging thought deep in my mind had never been satisfied." She quickly uncovers signs of misdoings: the family house is empty of all its expensive furniture and the well-paid caretakers have allowed the property to deteriorate. The heroine soon learns that the story the Robinsons have told her, about her parents dying together while racing a yacht, is false. Her father died in the race, but her mother, an expert sportswoman, died six months later, under mysterious circumstances. Winter's determination to solve the riddle of her mother's death drives her on, even as the people she meets seem equally determined to conceal something from her. Improbable as much of the premise seems, Marsden's slow, teasing exposition will very likely lure readers further into the story to keep pace with the unstoppable Winter. The knockout punch Marsden delivers here may not have the lasting impact of his clincher in Letters, but it will certainly satisfy the expectations raised by the taut plot. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)