cover image The Substitute

The Substitute

Nicole Lundrigan. House of Anansi (PGW, U.S. dist., UTP, Canadian dist.), $15.95

Warren Botts, a substitute teacher in a small unnamed Canadian town, is suspected of murder in this sly and clever thriller from Lundrigan (The Widow Tree). He discovers the victim, Amanda Fuller, a 13-year-old girl in one of his classes, hanging from a tree in his backyard. His shocked phone call to 911 and odd responses to the operator’s questions only further implicate him. Botts is socially awkward to begin with, and his scattered reaction to Amanda’s death makes readers wonder if he really is that way or if he is just an unreliable character in a third-person narrative. There’s also another first-person narrator, someone who seems to know all the secrets. Lundrigan’s use of the two alternating narrative styles deepens the suspense. This slow-burning thriller can be a bit too slow at times, weighed down by description, and beginning the story with the discovery of a dead teenage girl is an overused trope. Nevertheless, this book will keep readers guessing, and, for the most part, they’ll be surprised by how it all plays out. Agent: Hilary McMahon, Westwood Creative Artists. (June)