When you find a body under your floor that's been dead for decades, you've got the makings of a cold case mystery. But when it's told in chapters that alternate between the past and the present, there is nothing cold about it.
Published since 1942 is a 10 to Try category that invites you to explore the past while staying grounded in the present day. For me, reading the brand new YA historical mystery Dreamland Burning, by Jennifer Latham, was an enthralling way to complete this category. It's full of detail, tension, characters you can invest in, and heartbreaking racism.
It's 1921 and William Tillman's Tulsa, Oklahoma is ruled by Jim Crow laws. But his father defies them and sells a Victrola to black teenager Joseph Goodhope. Neither William nor Joseph know that they are living in the days leading up to the 1921 Tulsa race riot, but they can tell that tension in the city is ramping up. In the present day, teenage girl Rowan Chase is coming to grips with the fact that there's a body under the floor in the old servant's house out back. But she doesn't hesitate to hide the body's dusty leather wallet from the forensic anthropologist and start digging into the facts herself.
This month is the fourth in my personal challenge to read only mysteries in completing 10 to Try. I still don't have an exact answer for why I have a love/hate relationship with them, but as I read mysteries of different types I'm learning that this genre is far more complicated than I thought.
Novelist, a reader's database that you can use with your library card, lists several types of mysteries such as: police procedurals, gumshoes, hardboiled, and cozy. Two of those make sense to me, but gumshoe and hardboiled? Are we talking about mysteries or food? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, gumshoe describes something done stealthily. Hardboiled means the story is gritty and realistic. There are many other types of mysteries to explore. Dreamland Burning could be called a historical mystery, or a past and present mystery. I've learned that I like this sub-genre!
Looking for more YA historical mysteries? Check out these suggestions from two of my favorite YA authors:
Award-winning novelist Marcus Sedgwick takes readers north of the Arctic circle in this mystery thriller set in 1910 Finland. Sig's father has just suffered an accidental death by falling through the icy surface of a frozen lake. Then a man shows up claiming that Sig's dead father owes him the gold that he stole when they were prospecting in Alaska. And the man isn't leaving until he gets what he wants.
Josie is completely fed up with her mother, a prostitute whose head is always in the clouds. She hopes that by finding a way to enroll in Smith College she will escape her life in 1950 New Orléans, but her plans go awry when a murder brings the police to her door.