by Penny Carlile
When Lucille Harris, a beautiful young widow, moves into the vacant house on Rusk Street in Marshall, Texas, the lives of ten-year-old Bobbi Rogers and her two best friends are turned upside down.
Neighbors begin to gossip when Lucille accepts a teaching position at all-black Bishop College and married neighbor Jim Tressell starts helping her with her garden.
Bobbi takes piano lessons from Lucille, and they become friends. She also likes Jim because he's nice to Lucille. When Lucille is murdered, all eyes turn to Jim who has no alibi. Only two people believe he's innocent--his brilliant but inexperienced lawyer Rufus Cornelius and Bobbi.
Set against the backdrop of the 1960 presidential election and the early days of the civil rights movement, The Girl on Rusk Street is a look back at what is sometimes called a "simpler time"--and it serves as a reminder that simpler times were often anything but simple.
Rachel on Amazon wrote:
Penny Carlile has utterly captured our attention with her riveting tale of a young girl growing up in stereotypical small town America during the 1960s. As a reader, you can tell when an author is truly involved in their story and knowing that Carlile used many events from her childhood in this novel is obvious and critical in making it into such a masterpiece. An eclectic story that is all at once coming-of-age, mystery and historical fiction, main character Bobbi finds herself growing up too fast when a heinous murder occurs on her street. During this time in her life, she recounts significant historical happenings occurring throughout the nation and in her own neighborhood that really puts us as readers into the times and mindsets of every character. She reminds us that even back in the "good ol' days" during seemingly simpler times, everything wasn't as idyllic as we remember and the problems that plagued us then still continue to haunt us now despite our resolve for progress. It's a rarity for an author to create a story that is accessible to youth as well as adults but Carlile has masterfully accomplished that and given us lessons for all age groups to reflect upon. The Girl on Rusk Street is well worth the read and the perfect addition to anyone's bookshelf.
Patricia on Amazon wrote:
The Girl on Rusk Street is an intriguing tale of mystery and drama. Through the POV of our young narrator Bobbi we are introduced to an intimate neighborhood where everyone knows on one another set amongst the backdrop of the 1950s/60s. While the story is focused on the main character and her neighborhood Carlisle illustrates the sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement that occur throughout the story.
At first the story is slow-moving, but it gradually picks up its pace once the characters are introduced and readers become familiar with the setting. The tone is easygoing until the tragic murder of Lucille and Bobbi, a young Nancy Drew, her neighbors, and the police seek out the murderer. As suspicions of who the killer arises things become heated and the tension of the story had me on edge. Especially when the murder trial for the killer began.
For the most part I enjoyed this story. I like historical fiction and stories with suspense and I felt like the story delivered on both of these elements. It’s a fast-paced read that is engaging and will attract a wide audience. The only downside is that the murder case becomes a bit predictable towards the end of the story because of too many clues being given early on.
All in all, The Girl on Rusk Street is an interesting whodunit mystery infused with suspense and history.
Roberta “Bobbi” Rogers comes of age in 1960s Marshall, Texas, where the shocking murder of her next door neighbor and piano teacher, Lucille Harris rocks the small town and residents of her street to the very core of their beings—especially when married neighbor Jim Tressell—is accused of the heinous crime. Did he kill Lucille? While there are snippets of the Civil Rights Movement incorporated into the novel (sit-ins and the Freedom Riders), the book’s main focus is Jim Tressell’s murder trial, which has a twist that readers may see coming although it is a slow reveal,
The trial scenes were well-written, but all the characters in the book, including Bobbi herself, who is the story’s narrator, remain flat, one-dimensional and unrealistic, especially regarding their views on racial equality in that time and place. This book has shades of To Kill a Mockingbird, but lacks its charm and depth. Though this is a fairly quick read, with some good descriptions, particularly of children’s summertime fun, one would be better served checking out that classic tale, rather than this unremarkable, underdeveloped book, even if it was based on the author’s own life.
About the Author...
Penny Carlile was born in Marshall, Texas, and grew up, not coincidentally, on Rusk Street. Married for forty-four years to her husband Steve, she has two sons, four grandchildren and a dog named Eli. She enjoys creating contemporary oil paintings, traveling, dining out at great Italian and seafood restaurants and walking for exercise.