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Dangerous Admissions: Secrets of a Closet Sleuth

Dangerous Admissions: Secrets of a Closet Sleuth

4.6 3
by Jane O'Connor

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Miranda "Rannie" Bookman—43, divorced mother of two, with a recent love life consisting of a long string of embarrassingly brief encounters—is beginning to feel like a dangling participle: connected to nothing. Her career as a copyeditor is down the toilet (she makes one little slip—a missing "l" from the last word in the title of the Nancy Drew


Miranda "Rannie" Bookman—43, divorced mother of two, with a recent love life consisting of a long string of embarrassingly brief encounters—is beginning to feel like a dangling participle: connected to nothing. Her career as a copyeditor is down the toilet (she makes one little slip—a missing "l" from the last word in the title of the Nancy Drew classic The Secret of the Old Clock—and suddenly she's Publishing Enemy #1!), so she's been forced to take any gig she can get. And that means giving tours at the Chapel School, the ultra-exclusive, ultra-expensive, private academy that her children attend. Certainly not the most interesting of employments . . . at least until someone stumbles across the dead body of the Director of College Admissions.

Investigating a murder was never in her job description, but with her soon-to-be-college-bound boy Nate a prime suspect, Rannie has little choice. Besides, who better to dot all the "i"s and cross all the "t"s than a self-proclaimed "language cop"? Her diligence might even lead her to a brand-new love. Or to a killer. Or to another corpse—hopefully not her own.

Editorial Reviews

Chelsea Cain
The book recovers from an awkward start. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, many of them narcissistic, crass teenage twits…But O'Connor gets the story rolling and treats us to a neat little murder mystery. It's hard not to love a book in which grammar features as a clue to the identity of a killer.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Wielding "her weapon of choice, a lethally sharpened Cole-erase blue pencil," Miranda "Rannie" Bookman makes a dynamic sleuth in O'Connor's lively romantic suspense debut. The plucky freelance copyeditor and single mom is shocked when her son, Nate, becomes a suspect in the murder of A. Lawrence "Tut" Tutwiler, director of college admissions for the exclusive Chapel School on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Parents will kill to get their kids into "Chaps," where Nate's a senior and Rannie's taken a temporary part-time job. Will Chaps students also kill to get into the right university? Has recovering addict and former student Grant Werner come back for revenge? Or is the S.W.A.K. serial killer stalking the Upper West Side now targeting Chaps's faculty members? O'Connor, a veteran children's book author (Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy), proves she can also please adults with a fresh, grammatically correct crime solver equally adept at deleting dangling participles and exposing psychotic killers. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Adult/High School -Miranda Bookman is disappointed with the state of her life. Divorced with two kids, she has ambled through a string of shallow and short-lived romances. Perhaps most embarrassing is her public exit from the publishing world as a result of an editing mistake in the title of a "Nancy Drew" novel. But Rannie's life begins to take on the drama and excitement of a real-life mystery after the suspicious death of the director of college admissions at her son's upscale private academy, Chapel School. Her current job of giving tours to applicant families at Chaps gives Rannie the opportunity to explore the mystery of this soon-to-be murder investigation. However, murder isn't the only puzzle in her life. Her new relationship with Tim Butler, the father of another student, is clouded by the secrecy surrounding his widowhood and exit from the police force. In addition to Rannie's own emerging steamy relationship, there is a romantic plot involving her teenage son will intrigue romance fans. The ritzy Manhattan setting is almost a subplot as well; it is sure to attract fans of Cecily von Ziegesar's "Gossip Girl" series (Little, Brown). Ultimately, readers will be satisfied by the dangerous, nail-biting ending.-Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An out-of-work copy editor starts snooping when the admissions counselor at her son's prep school dies at the height of applications season. Fired from Simon & Schuster for missing an unforgivable typo (a missing "l" in the title of a reissue of the Nancy Drew classic Secret of the Old Clock), single Jewish mom Rannie Bookman is reduced to giving pre-admission tours of Chapel School, the snooty Upper West Side private institution her children attended courtesy of her moneyed ex. Alice, now at Yale, is strong and steady, but Nate has his issues. He plans to attend Stanford instead of an Ivy League school, balks at the tasteless fare served by his WASP grandma Mary's maid Earla, who "never overspices," and has the hots for rich, rebellious Olivia Werner, who won't finish her Princeton essay because she wants to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology. His biggest problem, however, is that he was the last to see A. Lawrence Tutwiler before Tut was found dead in his office. It's only partly because of Nate that Rannie tails Augusta Hollins, whose relationship with the much-older Tut intrigues her. Her curiosity may threaten more than her burgeoning relationship with down-to-earth Tim Butler. Children's author O'Connor (The Snow Globe Family, 2006, etc.) offers unusually compelling depictions of adult sexuality in her frank, funny adult debut. Agent: Douglas Stewart/Sterling Lord Literistic Inc.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Closet Sleuth , #1
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Read an Excerpt

Dangerous Admissions
Secrets of a Closet Sleuth

Chapter One

Mid-October, Tuesday morning

S.W.A.K. Killer Strikes Again: Perv Murderer Stalks Upper West Side blared the headline of the Post lying on the front seat of the Jag.

Olivia Werner shuddered and fired up a Parliament. What a complete sicko, leaving lipstick kiss marks on his victims after slitting their throats. The only reason her parents had James chauffeuring her to school was because all the bodies had been found near Chaps. Olivia wasn't complaining: She got an extra half hour to sleep, and more importantly she could smoke. You could hardly do that anywhere in this city anymore.

Accelerating through a yellow light, the car shot across Fifth Avenue and into the transverse at 85th Street. She'd make it to school in time to catch Mr. Tut before some other senior having a panic attack got to him.

Last night her mother had barged into her room while Olivia was sewing. As soon as Olivia said, "No, Mom, I don't want to 'brainstorm' essay ideas now," her mother dropped her eager, helpful smile and went on a rant about the Princeton application being due in two weeks.

"Mom, please. Face it. I'm not going to get in."

Being a double legacy didn't mean squat, not with her SAT scores and not when four brainiacs in the class were applying early. One of them—William Van Voorhees III—was claiming to be African-American because his grandfather came from Capetown. But that was Chaps kids for you, working every angle.

Olivia wanted to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology. Mr. Tutwiler understood. In fact, he"applauded her sense of direction." Those were his exact words. "Fashion does matter," he agreed. "The way we dress is the face we present to the world. With the exception of clothes, so little about our appearance is of our own choosing."

If a man over eighty got it, how come her parents didn't? At Werner family conferences, her mom's standard reply was: "We didn't send Olivia to Chaps for thirteen years so she'd end up in the Garment District."

The car pulled to the curb at 103rd Street and Riverside Drive. Shouldering her backpack, Olivia hurried through the gates of Chapel School—Chaps—a glowering, turreted hulk the color of chewed gum. She banged on the front doors until the guard let her in.

It was eerily silent in the Great Hall, a massive space that soared thirty feet to a barrel-vaulted ceiling. But in another fifteen minutes black Town Cars would be lined up outside, two and three deep, and seven hundred Chapel School students would come swarming through the doors, Lower and Middle School kids in Chaps uniforms, Upper School kids in anything that marginally passed Dress Code.

Her dad had gone to Chaps, class of '76, and complained about how the school had "changed," which Olivia understood wasn't about Chaps being coed or the way kids dressed. It was some sort of nasty code word for the fact that now the high school was twenty-five percent minority kids on scholarship. It killed her parents that practically all of them were guaranteed a spot at the Ivy of their choice.

From the Great Hall she crossed over to a neighboring brownstone known as the Annex. No need to check the wall directory; Olivia knew exactly where to find A. Lawrence Tutwiler, Director of College Admissions.

He was a Chapel School institution, the college advisor since way before either Chaps or any of the Ivies had gone coed. In a cover story last spring, New York Magazine had crowned him King Tut because he carried so much weight with college admissions offices. A lot of kids hated him. He didn't care who your parents were or how much money they promised your first-choice college. He could spot an application essay written by a high-priced tutor from the opening sentence. Some shrink suddenly claimed you were ADD and needed to take the SATs untimed? Uh uh. Didn't fly with Tut. It was one of the reasons Olivia liked him so much: Tut cut through the bullshit, judged you fair and square for what you'd accomplished at Chaps, and he let colleges know it.

In the Annex reception area, the new headmaster was talking to a couple whose little girl was sitting on the sofa, a half-naked Barbie on her lap. Obviously here to tour the school. Kindergarten had been so great; it was senior year that sucked. Olivia had loved school when she was little, everything about it—the school bus, lunch in the cafeteria, class trips, even the heinous maroon uniform. Her teachers had loved every single one of her art projects. Some were still displayed in the Lower School hallways.

As Olivia took the stairs to Tut's office, she worked at a hangnail on her thumb until it started bleeding. The Princeton application was in her backpack, the only part still blank was the space for the personal essay. Tell us about something meaningful to you, it asked. Surprise us. Pick a topic that only you can write about.

"Your brother's in rehab," Lily G. had said. "Just say how you want to devote your life to crack babies or something."

"She's right," Lily B. agreed. "Calm down."

What the Lilys didn't know (and never would) was that lately the only way she could calm down and get to sleep was by masturbating. Coming always left her feeling peaceful, almost with a sense of well-being—it worked way better than the Ambien her mother was quick to offer. So how about "Teenage Girls Jerk Off, Too!" for her Princeton essay? Couldn't get more personal than that.

The door to Tut's office was shut, which probably meant he wasn't in. A floor below, she could hear the chirpy voice of the little girl, but on the other side of the office door, total silence like during an exam.

Sucking her bleeding cuticle, Olivia peeked through the little window in the door. Tut was there; she could make out the bulk of his head and shoulders through the wavy glass.

Dangerous Admissions
Secrets of a Closet Sleuth
. Copyright © by Jane O'Connor. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Jane O’Connor is an editor at a major publishing house who has written more than seventy books for children, including the New York Times bestselling Fancy Nancy series. She resides (that’s fancy for lives) with her family in New York City.

Desde la publicacion de Nancy la Elegante, el closet de Jane O’Connor cuenta con tantas boas, coronas y atuendos brillantes que a veces sus amigas no la reconocen por la calle. Aun reside (esa es una palabra elegante para decir que vive) en la ciudad de Nueva York con su familia y su companero canino, Arrow.

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Dangerous Admissions: Secrets of a Closet Sleuth 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"The ruse taking shape in her mind was more than a little Lucy Ricardo-like." I love it! The newspaper stories the author invents to punctuate the tale don't get the papers' voices right, but that's minor. I want to read more of this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
Forty-three years Miranda 'Rannie' Bookman is a divorced mother of two. Her love life consists of imaginary numbers and her work as a copyeditor with a sharpened blue pencil went down the tubes due to an honest error of omitting the letter l in the re-release of the Nancy Drew thriller The Secret of the Old Clock.------------------ Until the publishing world forgives her blunder, which may be in the next millennium, Rannie works where she can for instance she embarrasses her children by giving tours at Manhattan¿s exclusive Chapel School private academy they attend. When someone murders the director of college admissions at ¿Chaps¿, A. Lawrence Tutwiler, her son Nate and other seniors and their parents including her are prime suspects. Unable to accept the NYPD narrow focus targeting the Upper West Side Chaps community, Rannie thinks she would like to kill authors whose books are one big run on sentence, but never did. Instead she investigates whether anyone would kill to get into their college of first choice or is some other motive the cause.------------- Eccentric Rannie is a charmer as she holds this amusing Manhattan murder mystery together as she cringes at fractured sentence structure or insuring the world is grammatically and punctuality correct while investigating who is killing Chaps. The breezy story line pokes fun at elitist schools, publishing companies, and amateur sleuths. The support cast, mostly the Chaps, add depth to Rannie¿s running amok as the investigative grammar queen of New York.------------------ Harriet Klausner