Cambria “Bree” Butler is reeling from a bad break-up and her lost dreams of pursuing a career as an investigative journalist, but her resilient attitude will carry her through the ups and downs of working as a freelance writer in San Francisco’s Bay Area. That is, until she shows up for an interview at the mysterious Elergene Enterprises and finds her interviewee – a young chemical engineer – dead on the floor of his office. After being marked as a suspect in the murder herself, Bree is determined to finally put her journalistic chops to the test and track down the real murderer. Joining her in the unsanctioned investigation is her college friend, sassy lawyer-turned-detective Gen Delacourt. Together, the two women will do what it takes – including evading or assisting the two handsome cops on the case – to unravel the mystery. But when Bree gets close to Elergene’s CEO, the enigmatic Taylor Vonnegon, she’ll have to find her way to the truth with a new target on her back.
I adored Molly Greene’s debut, Mark of the Loon, and I was delighted to find that her talent for crafting engaging fiction has only grown through Rapunzel. Greene is accomplished at creating escapist novels: stories that take us out of our environment and catapult us into a colorful world of mystery, romance, and cinematic detail. Her characters came to life effortlessly for me: I loved seeing Mark of the Loon’s resourceful and spunky Gen Delacourt again, and the newcomers in the story felt instantly like old friends. The narrative bounces back and forth to follow both Gen and Bree, which I particularly enjoyed. Both women are vastly different – Gen struck me as the more impulsive while Bree was decidedly more emotionally driven – but their chemistry makes them a terrific team to share the story. Greene’s heroes and heroines are heroic, and her villains are aptly villainous; but beyond that, Rapunzel boasts a mystery that leaves the reader actively engaged in rooting out who among the array of characters are trustworthy - and who aren't. It’s the sort of fun experience in a mystery that makes us as readers feel as though we’re genuinely part of the story; the sort of experience that we never want to end.
What also impressed me was the way Greene was able to shift the atmosphere of Rapunzel from lighthearted and comedic to truly gripping suspense. There were flirty exchanges, moments of high-running family emotions, frustration-filled arguments, life and death situations, romantic heartbreaks, and the electric excitement of digging for the truth; Greene navigates it all with aplomb and delivers a story that entertains easily without giving away a single detail of its mystery. The mystery itself is a fascinating one, and it balances well with the detailed personal plights of each of the main characters; in pursuing the engineer’s murder, Bree and Gen both find out a good deal about themselves and it was interesting simply to follow along on their journey of discovery. In all, Rapunzel was a delightful read with a well-executed mystery, plenty of suspense, an uplifting friendship, a touch of romance, and a lot of heart.