Despite finding the first book slightly lackluster, I wanted to give the series a continued chance. To my delight I enjoyed this one much better than the original, bumping it up a star, as Skye encounters a richer plot and more tension in her personal life. Despite the mystery and plot of the first, I didn't think there was enough basic tension to play off; here it's more impressive as Simon surprised me with some colors I never expected to see, Wally wooed me, and Skye's family was shown in a grimmer light.
Mystery wise, it was pretty damn good. I wouldn't have figured out the culprit from clues alone, even if I didn't leave surprised. I enjoyed the multitude of red herrings used to throw me off track, all without any clear motives. The plot 'twist' was a decent one, again not guessed early on by yours truly. The story begins well with Skye encountering yet another difficult set of parents - this is a major theme for the book - and I especially loved the ending wrap-up with her and her mother. Too cute. The middle was fast-paced and attention-grabbing, making the book go fast in a hurry.
Skye's a great character who fights her way through the bogus school system as a student psychologist, yet she's not unrealistic in the realities she must face and settle. I especially felt horrible for a certain boy who felt the brunt of the politically incorrect system, and couldn't imagine being in the position Skye was, where she had to be the bearer of bad news. If school shrinks really go through what she did in this book (a little less dramatic I'd hope), then it's not a glamorous job. She's also unusually displayed as a plus-sized individual, proud of the fact she's big boned, having thrown out the dieting fad a year ago, yet still exercising and just being happy with the way she is. What a refreshing change that can be to read about.
Swanson decided to bring up relationship issues not touched upon much before, which I hold mixed feelings about. I can understand Skye's reluctance but it almost seems a bit too forced in this day and age and with her personality to last so long. Either way, we see a true side of another character, and I suppose that person's role is permanently changed. I did hold qualms with how she dealt with some of the family and town during the investigation, though. I mean, she's determined to solve her grandmothers death - obviously - but this seemed to overcome her need to be sensitive at certain moments. I thought she was a bit too ruthless at times, so that did irk me a little.
As before, this "cozy" mystery stayed warm and soothing, with violence implied and bloodshed nearly nonexistent. Characters worked well together, mixing up an interesting ensemble that propelled the story forward into a satisfying finale, even if her personal life was left an open book, obviously "to be continued."