Cover of Killing Time by Brenna Ehrlich. A woman's face looks over some weird orange waves and upside down houses and a man

About the Book

Title: Killing Time
Published: 2022

Cover Story: Burning Man
Drinking Buddy: Flat beer
MPAA Rating: R (violence, sexuality, language, alcohol use)
Talky Talk: Meh
Bonus Factors: Dual timelines
Relationship Status: Small town celebrity

Cover Story: Burning Man

So are those houses on fire or what? Or are those EMP pulses? I never did care for black covers.

The Deal:

Natalie Temple is an aspiring journalist and true crime aficionado who loves gory stories of murder and killers. Weirdly, her mother, Helen, absolutely hates anything even remotely violent or sensational and would freak out of she knew her daughter was running a crime podcast with her friend Katie.

And then a horrific murder hits their small Connecticut town. Mrs. Halsey, Natalie’s teacher and mentor, has been brutally killed. Who could have done such a thing? Natalie is determined find out, especially since she had harsh words with the victim the last time they spoke and was never able to make amends. Assisted by Katie and a mysterious loner named Kurt, Natalie is going to find justice for Mrs. Halsey.

Flashback about 19 years ago. Natalie’s mom, Helen, is a college freshman. Like her daughter, she is a journalist. Like her daughter, she is interested in true crime. And like her daughter, she may have bitten off more than she could chew.

Drinking Buddy: Flat beer

Two pints of beer cheersing with a "Denied" stamp over them

Natalie is smart, determined, loyal, and friendly. Unfortunately, she is such an absolute and total doormat that I found it hard to empathize with her. She’s always going on about how her single mother is her BFF, and yet Helen flies into a rage every time her daughter shows an interest in anything but the most puerile reporting and gets in a fight with Mrs. Halsey about allowing Natalie to join a true crime club. Kurt, the mysterious poor kid with the heart of gold, shows obvious romantic interest in Natalie, but gets kind of pushy, and Natalie comes running every time he calls. Katie, her alleged best friend, repeatedly tattles on Natalie to her obsessive mother, and Natalie always forgives her. Natalie really needs to have it out with everyone about boundaries and young adult rights, but every confrontation ends with ‘They had my best interests at heart.’

MPAA Rating: R (violence, sexuality, language, alcohol use)

This has everything that makes a mystery great: buried secrets, a misunderstood yet somehow creepy poor boy, dozens of suspects, nosy neighbors, a spooky abandoned amusement park, and and the grim specter of death. The two POVs work well together, making us wonder why if college-age Helen was so into true crime, why modern day Helen hates it with a passion.

Talky Talk: Meh

It was a good mystery, but not a great one. I wasn’t emotionally invested enough in the characters to really bite my nails, and the murdered teacher really should have been featured a little more to show what she meant to Natalie. It was a good, snowy day read, but not an all time favorite.

Bonus Factor: Dual Timelines

The author did a flawless job of switching between 18 year old Natalie and her mother Helen at 18, without giving away too much of the past. I did keep thinking I was seeing anachronisms in the past, until I realized that Helen’s freshman year would have been around 2003 or so, and cell phones with cameras were very much part of the landscape by then. Which makes me feel really old.

Relationship Status: Small town celebrity

You really stood out when I read you, but in a few years I probably won’t remember much about you. I will, however, check out the next book by this author.

Literary Matchmaking

Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry

Susan Vaught’s Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry is another multi-generational mystery

Feral

Or Holly Schindler’s Feral.

Mary, Will I Die?

Or Mary, Will I Die? by Shawn Sarles

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but no money or booze. I need my booze.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.