The story of a teen's struggle to prove her brother innocent of murder.
The Crime: The murder of John Johnson, beloved baseball coach.
The Accused: 18-year-old Jeremy Long, who hasn't spoken a single word in 12 years.
Witness for the Defense: 16-year-old Hope Long, the only person who believes her brother is innocent.
Other Suspects: The police have none. But Hope's list is growing.
From author Dandi Daley Mackall comes a gripping murder mystery and a dark yet powerfully redemptive story of love, secrets, and silence.
About the Author
DANDI DALEY MACKALL has written many books for children and adults. She has held a humorist column and served as freelance editor, has hosted over 200 radio phone-in programs, and has made dozens of appearances on TV. Dandi conducts writing assemblies and workshops across the U.S. and keynotes at conferences and young author events. She writes from rural Ohio with her husband, three children, and their horses, dogs, and cats.
Read an Excerpt
The first time Jeremy heard God sing, we were in the old Ford, rocking back and forth with the wind. Snow pounded at the window to get inside, where it wasn’t much better than out there. I guess he was nine. I was seven, but I’ve always felt like the older sister, even though Jeremy was bigger.
I snuggled closer under his arm while we waited for Rita. She made us call her ‘Rita’ and not ‘Mom’ or ‘Mommy’ or ‘Mother,’ and that was fine with Jeremy and me. Pretty much anything that was fine with Jeremy was fine with me.
We’d been in the backseat long enough for frost to make a curtain on the car windshield and for Rita’s half-drunk paper cup of coffee to ice some in its holder up front.
Jeremy had grown so still that I thought he might be asleep, or half frozen, either one being better than the teeth-chattering bone-chilling I had going on.
Then came the sound.
It filled the car. A single note that made it feel like all of the notes put together in just the right way. I don’t remember wondering where that note came from because my whole head was full of it and the hope that it wouldn’t stop, not ever. And it went on so long I thought maybe I was getting my wish and that this was what people heard when they died, right before seeing that white tunnel light.
The note didn’t so much end as it went into another note and then more of them. And there were words in the notes, but they were swallowed up in the meaning of that music-song so that I couldn’t tell and didn’t care which was which.
Then I saw this song was coming from my brother, and I started bawling like a baby. And bawling wasn’t something you did in our house because Rita couldn’t abide crying and believed whacking you was the way to make it stop.
Jeremy sang what must have been a whole entire song, because when he closed his mouth, it seemed right that the song was over.
When I could get words out, I turned so I could see my brother. “Jeremy,” I whispered, “I never heard you sing before.”
He smiled like someone had warmed him toasty all the way through and given him hot chocolate with marshmallows to top it off. “I never sang before.”
“But that song? Where did you get it?”
“God,” he answered, as simply as if he’d said, “Walmart.”
I’d just heard that song, and even though it seemed to me that God made more sense than Walmart for an answer, I felt like I had to say otherwise. I was the “normal” sister, the one whose needs weren’t officially special.
“Jeremy, God can’t give you a song,” I told him.
Jeremy raised his eyebrows a little and swayed the way he does. “Hope,” he said, like he was older than Rita and I was just a little kid, “God didn’t give it to me. He sang it. I just copied.”
The door to the trailer flew open, and a man named Billy stepped out. Rita was breaking up with Billy, but I don’t think he knew that. We’d stopped by his trailer on our way out of town so Rita could pick up her stuff, and maybe get some money off her ex-boyfriend, who didn’t realize he was an ex. Billy stood there in plaid boxers, his belly hanging over the elastic like a rotten potato somebody’d tried to put a rubber band around. If I hadn’t been so cold, I might have tried to get Jeremy to laugh.
Rita squeezed up beside the potato man. She tried to slip past him and out the door. But he took hold of her bag and grabbed one more kiss. She laughed, like this was a big game. Then she stepped down out of the trailer, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
I would have given everything I had, which I admit wasn’t so very much, just to hear Jeremy and God’s song again.
The tall heels of Rita’s red knee-high patent-leather boots crunched the snow as she stepped to the car, arms out to her sides, like a tightrope walker trying to stay on the wire. She jerked open the driver’s door, slid into place, and slammed the door hard enough to shake the car worse than the wind.
Without saying a word, she turned the key and pumped the pedal until the Ford caught. Then she stoked up the defrost and waited for the wipers to do their thing. I figured by the scowl on Rita’s face that Billy hadn’t forked over the “loan” she’d hoped for.
Jeremy leaned forward, his knobby fingers on the back of the seat. “Rita,” he said, “I didn’t know God could sing.”
She struck like a rattler, but without the warning. The slap echoed off Jeremy’s face, louder than the roar of the engine. “God don’t sing!” she screamed.
That was the last time Jeremy ever spoke out loud.
Sometimes I think if I could have moved quicker, put myself in between my brother’s soft cheek and Rita’s hard hand, the whole world might have spun out different.
“Your Honor, I object!”
The prosecutor stands up so fast his chair screeches on the courtroom floor. He has on a silvery suit with a blue tie. If he weren’t trying to kill my brother, I’d probably think he’s handsome in a dull, paper-doll-cutout kind of way. Brown hair that doesn’t move, even when he bangs the state’s table. Brown eyes that make me think of bullets. I’m guessing that he’s not even ten years older than Jeremy, the one sitting behind the defense table, the one on trial for murdering Coach Johnson with a baseball bat, the one this prosecutor would like to execute before he reaches the age of nineteen.
The prosecutor charges the witness box as if he’s coming to get me. His squinty bullet eyes make me scoot back in the chair. “The witness’s regrets about what she may or may not have done a decade ago are immaterial and irrelevant!” he shouts.
“Sit down, Mr. Keller,” the judge says, like she’s tired of saying it because she’s already said it a thousand times this week.
Maybe she has. This is my first day in her courtroom. Since I’m a witness in my brother’s trial, they wouldn’t let me attend until after I testified. So I can’t say the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what’s gone on in this courtroom without me.
“I’ll allow it,” the judge says. “Go ahead, Miss Long.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wow! Great mystery, with deep characters--realistic courtroom scenes, suspense, love. Great read!
This book is AWESOME! I was acutually sad when it ended because I loved it so much! Weird... but I would want sequal, but what would it be about? Maybe just more about life after... somthing like that. But it ended kinda odd, like what about TJ? Or why did his mom take the blame? But Yeah this is my new fav, I loved the charecters, the setting. Even if a book was similar I wouldn't like it as much because the charecters were so....AWESOME!
This book has recently been awarded the Edgar Allan Poe award for Best Young Adult Mystery. No reason to limit the book to a particular age; the story keeps the reader guessing who committed the murder all the way to the end, and it accomplished the goal without a speck of rawness and gore! There is also evidence of love, family dedication and acts of kindness, as well as suspense and tension. This is a book well worth reading...enjoy!
Review by Jill Williamson Coach Johnson is dead, and sixteen-year-old Hope Long is the only person who believes that her eighteen-year-old brother, Jeremy, is innocent. Sure, Jeremy is a little different--he's always been that way--but he's no killer. But there are no other suspects, so Hope sets out to find some and prove that Jeremy didn't kill Coach. I'm totally impressed! This was a wonderfully creative mystery novel. The writing was excellent, and the characters were even better. I was completely sucked in and didn't see the end coming. I'm so glad I bought this book! This is the first I've read of MacKall's books, but I'm going to keep an eye peeled for whatever she writes in the future. If you like John Grisham, you'd like this book. With the wrongly accused and the search to find the truth, this book was one I couldn't put down. Highly recommended.
Hope Long is sixteen-years-old and is stuck in a life where she can barely breathe. This is a girl whose mother is total slime. Old Mom likes to drink like a sieve, hit her kids, go from trailer to trailer, and bed every male slime in the universe; in other words, dear Mom is the essence of trailer-trash. The one bright spot in Hope's life is her truly wonderful brother, Jeremy. Jeremy suffers from a disease that even the doctors fight over - could be Autism, but might be something else. But Hope thinks her brother is simply one of the most amazing people, with one of the biggest hearts she's ever seen. So when it comes time to take the stand in his defense, Hope is physically ill as she has to retell the story of how it came to be that her brother is now sitting in a chair, while others make the decision over whether he should live or die. Coach Johnson, a man who seriously loved Jeremy and let him help out with the baseball team, is found dead, and Jeremy was seen running from the building with a baseball bat in his hand. So, of course, according to the town and the hideous local sheriff, the 'crazy' Jeremy has to be the killer. But Hope just can't believe that. She begins to tell the prosecutor about their background, regaling him with stories of how truly wonderful her brother is. She talks about the time that Jeremy gave up his clothes and extra food to people who needed help and were homeless. She talks about ALL the good things Jeremy has done, but still people don't believe her when she says he's innocent. Chase is the young man in town that Hope has feelings for. Unfortunately, he is also the son of the sheriff who truly hates Hope's brother and wants him to die by lethal injection. Hope's best friend is T.J. who has taken it upon himself to get Chase's help in finding out who really killed Coach Johnson in order to set Jeremy free. The mystery is truly gripping in this YA novel, and not many readers will be able to guess who the real killer of Coach Johnson was. But the reason this story is truly powerful is because of the character of Jeremy - his kind heart and caring spirit - and the amazing relationship between brother and sister. Quill Says: A gripping murder mystery with a wealth of honesty, respect, and love that flows throughout.
Not very good.