Release Day Review: ‘Scarlett Undercover’ by Jennifer Latham #BookBirthday

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer LathamScarlett certainly doesn’t believe in anything otherworldly. Her latest client is only nine years old and worried about her brother, Oliver, and his possible connection to his friend’s death. But, according to police, that was a clear suicide and there’s no reason to look any deeper. Scarlett, though, isn’t convinced that this is just another sad teen statistic, especially when she starts getting tailed right after meeting Oliver. Coincidence, or is something more sinister at play?

Her father murdered and her mother dead from cancer, it’s just Scarlett and her sister Reem. Scarlett graduated early from high school and Reem is a resident doctor at one of the harshest hospitals in Las Almas. They each are working their losses out in their own way, Scarlett solving problems as a PI and Reem by trying to heal at the hospital. Scarlett has drifted further from her Muslim heritage while Reem has started wearing a hijab.

As Scarlett begins to look deeper into the mystery, everything seems to be pointing back to her family; there’s an old bottle that has been passed down through her father’s family; a design that looks very familiar; hints from various acquaintances and clues that she discovers while delving deeper into her own history. How can she be connected to this seemingly unconnected crime?

She carries a blackjack, studies Muay Thai and won’t let herself rest until she solves a mystery. But what if that mystery can’t possibly be true and, if it were, could have consequences that not only involve her family, but the world? She will need more than belief or strength to see this one to the end. She’ll need faith. And a little smartassery wouldn’t hurt.

What a dark, fun and suspenseful story. Written through the clear eyes of the sometimes sarcastic and always tough Scarlett, she is a refreshing take on an old standard. Her Muslim upbringing adds history, rules and language that make her so very three-dimensional and add a different flavor to a genre that can sometimes be tired and same ol’ same ol’.

I am curious about the author chosing to write about characters who are Muslim. I think culture can be a highly-charged topic to some (especially when bound together with religious beliefs), and when someone who isn’t of that culture (I am totally assuming here, since I could find nothing about it online) writes about it, it can be especially upsetting to adherents if they think the author did not portray some aspect correctly. That philosophical pondering aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the historical elements in the story which made everything seem so real. This is a solid first book.

Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham was published today, May 19, 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley.

Rating: 4

Genre: Young Adult Fiction Fantasy Mystery Thriller
Ages: 12 and up
FYI: A little cursing, some violence, you know.

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