Hanging by a Threadby Sophie Littlefield
In a town where appearance means everything, how deep beneath the surface will Clare dig to uncover a murderer?
Summer is the best part of the year in Winston, California, and/u>
“Dark secrets, a dangerous romance, and a chilling murder mystery I won’t soon forget.” —Stacey Jay, author of Juliet Immortal
In a town where appearance means everything, how deep beneath the surface will Clare dig to uncover a murderer?
Summer is the best part of the year in Winston, California, and the Fourth of July is the highlight of the season. People consider themselves lucky to live in the quaint, serene beachside town, and native Clare Knight, now a city girl, feels doubly lucky to be moving back there a week before the July festivities kick off.
But the perfect town Clare remembers has changed, and everyone is praying that this summer will be different from the last two—that this year’s Fourth of July festival won’t see one of their own vanish without a trace, leaving no leads and no suspects. The media are in a frenzy predicting a third disappearance, but the town depends on tourist dollars, so the residents of Winston are trying desperately to pretend nothing’s wrong.
And they’re not the only ones hiding something.
Clare has been blessed—or perhaps cursed—with a gift: she can see people’s pasts when she touches their clothes. And since she’s a seamstress who redesigns vintage clothing, her visions are frequent—and usually unwanted. When she stumbles across a denim jacket that once belonged to Amanda Stavros, last year’s Fourth of July victim, Clare sees her perfect town begin to come apart at the seams.
- Random House Children's Books
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- Random House
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- 2 MB
- Age Range:
- 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
Littlefield / HANGING BY A THREAD
They say our house is cursed, and maybe it’s true. It’s been in my mom’s family for almost a hundred years. It was a dress and alterations shop until ten years ago, when my mom and dad poured all their money into restorations so we could live in it. As soon as it was finished, they got divorced and we all moved away. But that’s getting ahead of the story.
Three weeks ago, my mom and I moved back to town. We were finally getting around to hanging pictures on the walls, and the first one we pulled out of the moving box was of my great-great-grandmother Alma. In the old black-and-white photograph from the 1920s, she’s standing in front of this same house.
The image is of Alma in her early twenties and very pregnant. She looks pretty in her simple wool serge dress. But she’s overshadowed by the young woman standing next to her, who is wearing a gorgeous wedding gown. Silk voile drapes the bodice and dropped waist, and the Cluny lace veil is accented with small white feather plumes and pearls. If you look carefully, you can detect a darkness, a hint of fear, behind the young woman’s shy smile.
The day after the picture was taken, both Alma and the young bride were dead.
I hung the picture while Mom watched, hands on her hips, directing me to move it a little higher, a little to the left. She’s a perfectionist. I’m the creative type. Needless to say, this caused problems in our relationship, but we were treating each other gingerly. The move had caused enough stress already, and we were one sharp word away from a meltdown.
I wasn’t exactly thrilled about leaving my old high school in the city and coming back to a tiny town where I only had one friend, but I was determined to make the best of it. I’d lived in Winston until I was ten, and I’d kept in touch with my best friend, Rachel, ever since. She’d grown up to be beautiful, popular, and—thanks to her dad’s involvement in several start-up companies that had done well—rich, and she’d promised to get me connected with the in crowd at Winston High.
This was my big chance to finally fit in. Don’t get me wrong—I’d loved my two years at my private arts high school. It was where I got interested in fashion design, and I’d made some good friends. But I’d had enough of the artistic temperaments competing for attention at the Blake School, enough of the drama and the edginess of the San Francisco art scene. I was tired of sharing a cramped two-bedroom apartment with my mom. I just wanted to know what normal felt like, and a sleepy little beach town with a population of two thousand people seemed like the perfect place to find out.
My mom wasn’t adapting very well to being back, however. When we’d moved three hours north six years earlier, it was like she decided to put her entire past behind her, not just my dad. She broke contact with all her old friends and threw herself into her new job in the city. As the years passed, she changed. She became more polished, more professional, and more distant.
When my dad lost his job a few months ago and couldn’t keep up with his child support payments, private school was suddenly no longer an option. Then rents went up in our building, and the accounting firm my mom worked for was hit hard by the economy and she lost some important clients. When my dad offered to sign over his share of the house in Winston, she saw a solution to our problems. She bought out a small accounting firm in town from a man who was retiring, the renters moved out of the old dress shop, and we moved back as soon as school was over.
“So sad,” she sighed, once I’d hung the photograph exactly where she wanted it, in the small foyer of our house. “Poor Alma.”
It’s the exact same thing she said when I hung the photo in the San Francisco apartment. I remember because I didn’t know the story back then and I wanted to know what was so sad about it. My mom gave me a watered-down version, but later I got the whole story from my grandmother.
Back in 1923, Alma was a newlywed herself, excited about the arrival of her first child, planning to quit her job at the dress shop after giving birth. Her last big project was a wedding dress for a beautiful young woman engaged to a violent and jealous man named Forrest Hansen. Hansen had accused his fiancée of secretly seeing another man, an attorney in town, and though she’d denied it, she made the mistake of stopping to talk to the attorney one day when they met in the street. Hansen followed her to the shop that evening, waiting in the shadows outside while Alma made a few final alterations and a photographer took the bridal portrait for the newspaper. After the photographer left, Hansen stormed into the shop, yelling accusations. While the lovers argued, Alma must have tried to intervene, because after shooting his fiancée, Hansen shot Alma too.
She lived long enough for her baby to be taken from her that night. The coroner wrapped the baby in the wed- ding dress, which was lying nearby on the cutting table, to keep her warm. The baby was a healthy girl—my great-grandmother Josie—who would go on to work in this same dress shop when she grew up.
Hansen was caught, tried, and executed. But something else happened that night. Amid the terrible storm of jealousy and rage and violence, Alma’s innocent baby was born with a strange gift, one that she passed along to one of her own daughters—my Nana—and eventually, when I was twelve years old, to me.
Meet the Author
SOPHIE LITTLEFIELD is the Edgar-nominated author of several thrillers for adults. She lives with her family in Northern California.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I have this same book but the acual book not on the nook and it is an amazing murder, romance, secret, mystery book ever.
An interesting, original topic, but unfortunately entirely screwed up by the way too long narrative. The characters and plot don’t live up to the potential of the premise either. Clare is a pencil-thin character, with the personality of a cardboard figure. The plot takes too long to pick up – I went through half of the book, before I even got the feeling there was some plot to speak of. Not recommended.
I won this book from a giveaway through Adventures in YA Publishing. FYI: I haven't read any of the author's work before this so it's completely new and reading it as a stand alone novel. I wanted to read it because I loved the cover and the blurb sounded interesting. It felt like I was waiting for the one moment, the one thing that would push this book into bad or good categories. It could have been better. In the end, I thought this book was okay. I liked it but not really liked it. The thing was I was bored mostly and didn't feel emotionally connected. I think the characters were done well. Their relationships were dynamic and made sense. The love interest was instant yet they didn't try to make it deeper by talking much about common interests. It's flimsy and I'm not an insta-noodle-love fan. Lust? Yeah, got it. Love, though, I don't buy the ramen noodle approach to it. Usually there's some dire circumstances pushing them together or a paranormal connection like soul mates to make it work. This time around it's Jake pretending to care about clothes and the teenagers are model hot of course. I'm wondering now what will happen next when old friends meet new and Jack learns the little secret about Clare. The characters did progress, which usually I'm head over heels for but in the total package there just wasn't enough for me. But is it enough to go on to the next book? I don't know. I really don't care and probably won't think about it at all once I'm done with this review. I think it will depend on what's the next mystery. For me: Mystery is not knowing all the information leading the characters to dig around to find out. Suspense I think of as tension. As nail biting "what's going to happen next?" feeling. As much as the book builds on this mysterious serial killer I didn't feel the threat at all. I mean no one in the book but Clare's family really made any "be careful" comments. Those comments really felt more like the normal parental worry, like "Don't go into the water at night. Stay with a buddy. Don't drink and drive". There was talk of the news coverage but with no clues leaked on how the two murders were connected or a real police presence currently in residence. The main characters weren't worried either. Everyone just assumes and I couldn't. I've read too many mysteries and crime shows to buy into it when there's no information to cause such a response. It's a mystery but I didn't feel the suspense. I wasn't worried at all about people dying or anything happening besides Clare ruining her chance at being 'in' with the cool kids. The real threat didn't come out until the climax, then that threat fell flat as well. The ending I have a hard time buying it. I mean *no spoiler, spoilers bad* It was just another let down for me. The lack of danger, suspense and a dull ending really hurt this story for me. I think it boils down to a balance issue. There's Clare not feeling fear and caring about clothes a lot. Then there's suppose to be this scary serial killer destroying a town and killing star kids. Clare came through fine but the serial killer didn't. I think the complaints talking so much about the clothes would be lessened if the suspense was pumped up more. Or if there were less details of clothes and sewing it wouldn't be found such a drab drag of a read and the mystery would be more pronounced as is. Or if anyone felt fear besides the mother clinging to life through her daughter. Everyone in the forefront didn't really care or change their ways while people in the fuzzy background did, which made it hard to feel through all the layers of separation. Even with Claire reliving bits of the attacks, it wasn't emotionally impacting for me. I can't put my finger on why but I didn't connect with this book. Which is probably the biggest reason why it felt average and "meh, okay, yea". Claire felt real and true to character. She goes on about clothes and sewing because that's her passion. I think it's suppose to help the reader connect with her and understand her as well as being accurate to how she thinks. I'm not big on fashion in general and don't know how to sew so I didn't really get involved. It was interesting in an off handed kind of way. Like how you try to listen when your friend goes on about something they care about but the subject is boring as watching concrete dry. As it is due to the lack suspense and emotional impact it ends up an average tale about a girl struggling to fit in at a small town. For me it felt like a longer book than just 300 pages because of this. It's good if you like clothes or day to day details of characters and a little mystery. Usually, this is my kind of book but something was missing, something off in the formula. I've read other stories where a character has the ability to see memories and emotions from clothes. It didn't feel particularly original or creative to me. That's not damning in itself since there's only so many stories with only so many was to tell it. I just didn't find anything in this book particularly compelling. It's okay but nothing really stands out or is gripping. If there's a sequel I'll look into it to decide but I'm not anxiously awaiting it. There's potential but it doesn't live up to it in this book and have no idea if the author will step it up in the next one.
Clare is a unique character with a flair for resdesigning vintage clothing. She also has a gift for looking into people's pasts when she touches a piece of their clothing. She doesn't have control over when or where the visions take place, only sometimes the visions are so powerful that they compel her to take action. Upon returning to Winston, Clare finds herself pulled into a murder mystery closer to home than she would have thought possible. As a heroine, Clare doesn't stand out much other than her way of dress. She's the best friend, nice and unassuming. She hangs out with the in crowd but doesn't take part in the hard-core partying; she lives in a single-mom family; and she feels inexplicably drawn to trouble-boy Jack. Overall, she falls flat as a character and doesn't grow much as a person over the course of the novel.. Clare never interacts enough with any one character for a defining relationship to emerge; though she seems to be close with certain people, her relationship with them is complex, oscillating between trust mistrust. Her relationship with Jack also moves quickly in spite of her doubts of his trustworthiness, doubts that don't linger long. More than the characters, the plot is what drew me into the story. The mystery behind the crimes does take time to unfold. Looking back, the twists aren't all that big or exciting; however, the way that they're handled heightens the tension and intrigue surrounding the mystery. There were so many directions I could see the plot heading in that I didn't see the truth until it was practically upon me. By the time the plot reaches its climax, I was creeped out and ready for the murderer to be caught, so my poor heart could rest. Clare's gift adds a nice supernatural element to the story that gives us insight into events and emotions we wouldn't have learned about in such vivid detail otherwise. Overall, the story flows well, the plot is nicely handled, and the characters likable. This is a quick read that I would recommend to those looking for a good crime novel with a supernatural element.
Clare Knight and her Mom have moved back home to their small town. You would think Winston, California would be a quiet, peaceful place…but this year the only thing that’s going on is a whole lot of praying. Soon July 4th will be upon them, and for the last two years this is the day where someone simply vanished. Clare doesn’t like to think about that stuff. When she moved back home she hooked up with her old best friend, Rachel, who is doing her best to get Clare in with the ‘in-crowd.‘ Now Clare is very cool…in a way. She’s coming from San Francisco and is truly into fashion. She makes her own designs by using clothes she’s found at flea markets, vintage shops, etc. and redesigning them to be the hippest fashions around. Moving back into the house that the townsfolk refer to as “The Haunted Dress Shop” because of a past filled with oddities, is just one thing Clare has to deal with. The other is the fact that one of these oddities is the fact that Clare has been handed down a family ‘gift’ from her Nana; she can touch old clothing and get visions from them. Unfortunately, there is one piece of clothing she’s purchased that gives her a vision of a truly violent crime that has something to do with the July 4th disappearances. If she does nothing about the visions they fade, but Clare has always had a hard time doing that. She wants nothing more than to help and solve the things she’s ‘seen’ happen. Trying to simply fit in and sell her “NewToYou” designs to make some cash, Clare’s life soon turns into a serious mystery. Add in the fact that she stumbles across a young man by the name of Jack who is the picture of the ultimate ‘bad boy’ and was also the boyfriend of the girl who disappeared, and Clare finds herself on the hunt to stay alive, fall in love and find the truth that a town has been hiding… This author has done a great job of combining a YA with all levels of romance, friendship, and the harshness of returning to a small town when you’ve tried so hard to leave it behind - with the ultimate chilling mystery that readers will never guess. Quill Says: Outstanding on all levels!
Hanging by a thread is a murder mystery novel with a touch of paranormal. We’ve got our main protagonist, Clare, who has recently moved back to her mother’s hometown. Town is an exaggeration; it is more like a cluster of people living within each other’s earshot. Which is why everyone was shocked when a murder occurred in two consecutive years. The whole town is scared, which is why when Clare and her mom moved, the town wasn’t welcoming. This is mainly due to the fact that her family line has been known to be a little too para-normal, with creepy freaky things happening. No outsider knows but when Clare touches someone’s clothes, she can remember the darkest, most wrongful thing the wearer has committed. Convenient for a town that has witnessed two murders right? That’s not what Clare thinks. She just wants to be normal and enjoy designing and sewing her line made form vintage clothes. I really enjoyed Clare’s voice. She wasn’t whiny, but life has handed her an unfair hand. She is physically, emotionally, and mentally suffering by getting involved in figuring out who is the murderer, but her guilt would eat her up if she doesn’t. I also really liked the mystery behind it; In all honesty I couldn’t guess who was the murderer until the very end. Also, you get to witness a little of the dark side of every connected character in the novel when Clare touches a piece of their clothes. This definitely added an aura of mystery and distrust for every character; even the one Clare has started to develop a crush on. The author’s writing was not complicated at all. You get so sucked into the story and there are no complex words to get in the way of your reading. The build up of the plot and the addition of this paranormal theme to a mystery novel all added up my enjoyment level while reading Hanging by a Thread. I would definitely recommend it to all young adult lovers. You get a bit of contemporary, paranormal, and mystery all in one book you don’t want to miss out on!
Hanging by a Thread is a YA book that has it all! It is a romance with mystery and a bit of a paranormal twist thrown in as well. Clare has an inherited a special ability. When she touches clothing she can see bits of what the person had done while wearing it. So when she touches a jacket that belongs to a girl who disappeared, Clare cannot stop herself in finding out what happened to her. Along the way she finds that her best friend has been keeping secrets from her and the boy she likes may also be involved in the disappearance of the missing girl. I have not read the first two of the Banished series but I am happy to say that it didn’t matter. I was never lost or left wondering why things were happening the way they were. Hanging by a Thread is a perfect stand alone story.
3.5 stars: This was a really interesting novel that had a great premise, though the beginning was a bit too slow for my tastes. Once the novel picked up, though, and Clare found the jacket belonging to the missing teen, Amanda, the novel held my attention quite well. I will say that a lot of the intro chapters were a bit boring for me; I found Clare’s friends to be quite stale and I certainly wasn’t as interested in learning about them and their selfishness as I was about the mystery surrounding Amanda’s disappearance. In my opinion, it took a bit too long for the novel to get moving in the direction the synopsis states it will go… it was nearly 60 pages before any mention of the jacket took place, (if my math is correct—I read on my Kindle and it was about 22% into the novel), and even then it wasn’t right away that Clare took stock in what she had or decided to do anything about it. But it was a start and my interest piqued double time as soon as Clare began using her ability to help track the truth about Amanda. While I will say that I didn’t connect with most of the characters to any extent, I really did like Clare, though I felt her relationship with her friends, and especially Jack, were a bit pushed. She goes from liking them to disliking them, to being scared and then in love, and it happens a bit too quickly for it to have validity. But, it certainly didn’t ruin my reading of the novel. With the revelations of Amanda’s jacket, the story keeps itself afloat and holds the readers interest with the many twists and turns. And, in all honesty, I didn’t see the truth coming, which is always a plus in my book, because I like being completely jarred by the revelations. Thus, overall I liked the novel and wouldn’t mind reading more by this author.
I love a good mystery and I totally love this cover. It was interesting to follow Clare through the story and discover what really happened and who did it, but I figured it all out rather quickly. Not all of it, but a lot of it. I can see how the mystery is woven together though and it was a good story. I liked how there was a slight supernatural element added in too, but it was never really explained except that it goes back a few generations. (Unless I missed it somewhere, but I don't think that I did.) Clare and her mother have just moved back to the town where she grew up and she is friends with Rachel and they have started a little business together selling her designs. She has this gift where she can see people's pasts when she touches their clothes, and things get a bit crazy when she comes across a missing girls jacket. Clare doesn't want to use her gift, but she feels like she is meant to solve this mystery. On top of that she is also falling for Jack, but Rachel warns her to stay away from him. Jack seems like a nice guy though, and Rachel can't see how he can be all that bad. Clare wasn't really a character that I could connect with, but I didn't dislike her or anything. She just wasn't all that memorable. She is determined to figure out what is going on and wants to know everyone else's secrets, but doesn't want anyone to know hers. I get that her secret is a bit crazy, but she gets mad that other people are hiding things. Maybe it's just me, but I was a little annoyed with her behavior at times. There is a lot of other characters too, some of them important, others not so much. None of them very memorable. I would have liked to be able to really feel the characters or even want to sympathize with them, or like them, or even want to push them out a window or something, but sadly that was not the case. They were there, they were part of the story, but that was it. I guessed at who did what and who was a major part of certain situations rather easily. I think that this book could have been really awesome. The story was there, though maybe a bit lagging at times, but the characters really did nothing for me. I wanted to see how Clare would figure everything out. I was hoping things wouldn't just conveniently happen and make it super easy for her. Which, if by the last few chapters you haven't figured it all out you might be a little shocked, but then go "OMG how did I not figure that out sooner?" I know this does sound super negative and I really don't mean it to be. It's just that to me the characters can make or break a book for me and I thought the characters really could have been much better. I found myself bored when it was just them hanging out and wanting to skim over a lot of dialogue and just get on with the story. If you like creepy mysteries, this book will be great for you. I did like it despite not connecting with the characters.