Child's Play

Merry Jones
Oceanview Publishing


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As the story begins, Elle Harrison is beginning a new year of teaching second grade at Logan Elementary. Though this is a book in a series, we can tell without reading the other books that our Elle is a survivor, fighting to keep her life on an even keel, in spite of personal demons, destructive memories, and fears of random individuals like the creepy school custodian. She fights in a tangible way by taking on new challenges like selling her house to free herself of her past, and taking up the trapeze with her friends Becky and Susan (both projects with dubious success.) She's haunted by memories of her late husband, Charlie, and zones out, a thing her friends call "pulling an Elle." She has a lot to deal with, including finding the school principal Mrs. Marshall murdered, and being interrogated by Nick Stiles, the same detective who had been on her husband's case. By the end of the first chapter, her canoe is fully loaded with rocks and headed toward the waterfall with a slow leak.

We have sympathy with Elle because she has such troubles. She deals with not only her personal issues, but also having to work with Joyce (her nemesis). Joyce is something of a cold fish, and would be a challenge to work with in any environment except maybe in concert with other cold fish. Elle and her friends have empathy for their students, even troubled ones like Ty Evans, one of her former pupils who has a troubled family, and whose release from prison complicates the story.

Writing in first person is a challenge. Though Elle's life has made her neurotic, a condition which has her second guessing everything, this can be difficult for the reader to hear constantly and still remain sympathetic, she does remain a sympathetic character. This does make her pretty whiney for a heroine, although she has good reason to be. Her friends are somewhat supportive, and I can't decide if the author meant them to be realistic, loyal or pandering, because they know of her problems, but aren't as supportive as they could have been. (What kind of friends drink with someone prone to blackouts?) As for the mystery, on one count I was surprised, and on another count, I was not. I did enjoy the read. Even though Elle is a prisoner of her history and nerosis, and lives to be a piñata for life to beat up, I finished in one sitting. Childs Play is a series book that does stand alone.