Emma Graham is convinced that a crime has been committed in the sleepy town of La Porte Maryland. Although only twelve, Emma works in her mother’s hotel when she is not writing her column for the local Conservative newspaper. Her insights are very profound for her age, “When you get older you know death is only death and that’s all there was to it.” (p.12) The mystery of the kidnapped baby Slade has never been explained – but Emma is going to solve it. As she follows an increasingly confusing web of murky clues, Emma finds herself in the middle of a series of murders. The title of the novel is based on post-World War II “fadeaway images” from the magazine covers of Life and the Saturday Evening Post. Illustrators created figures in the same colors as the background, “It was a trick of the eye, I guess, I could pick out the whole figure if I wanted to, if I looked a certain way.” (p. 23) Emma’s quest for the truth about the kidnapping is much like this image. Is the answer right in front of her eyes?
Although readers may often be confused by the complex and intricate plot of this novel, the quirky appeal of the determined twelve-year-old heroine, Emma Graham, will captivate them. Her insatiable appetite for solving mysteries brings her right into the center of an unsolved twenty-year-old crime – the kidnapping of baby Slade from the old Belle Ruin hotel. As the amateur sleuth follows frustrating clues, she encounters a cast of eccentric characters from her hometown of LaPorte and the Hotel Paradise, where her family lives and works. Who can forget the drunken great-Aunt Aurora Paradise, who lives on the top floor of the hotel and reminisces about the mysteries of her past, or Mr. Root, who forces his vocally challenged sons Ulub and Ubub to recite the poetry of Robert Frost?
In 1981, bestselling writer Martha Grimes published her first novel, The Man with a Load of Mischief. This novel featured Richard Jury solving compelling mysteries in the sleepy English countryside with his eccentric entourage of pub friends. Although these novels named after local English pubs are not action-packed, they explore interesting mysteries while focusing in the rich interior lives of the loveable cast of characters. Since then, Grimes has published at least one novel (sometimes two) a year. Fadeaway Girl is the fifth novel in the Western Maryland series, which began with The End of the Pier (1992) and continued with Hotel Paradise (1996), Cold Flat Junction (2002), and Belle Ruin (2005).
These novels are semi-autobiographical. As a young girl, Grimes spent her summers at her mother’s hotel in Maryland where her brother put on theatrical productions in a big garage behind the hotel. With Fadeaway Girl, Martha Grimes has used her memories of idyllic Maryland summers and added a fictional murder or two to create a wonderful new novel.