I've really loved all the previous Jenny Cain mysteries by Nancy Pickard (with the exception of BUM STEER, which wandered all the way across the country from the New England setting). Nearly all are witty, wise and well-written, satisfying all three of the "Important W's" of popular fiction. In all the other Jenny Cain novels, even BUM STEER, the plotting is tight, the characters plausible, and although clues are dropped along the way, the conclusions aren't easy for a reader to figure out.
TWILIGHT's chief problem is that it's a clumsy mystery. Even the characterization seems weak in this book, and Jenny is by no means at her interesting, clever best. Even distracted by the Autumn Festival, how could she have misinterpreted Bill's odd behavior and remarks as "funny" when readers immediately know that something is wrong with his perception of reality?
And the main plot -- the hazards of an urban hiking trial crossing a road for vehicles -- makes a mountain out of a molehill. It's unworthy of Ms. Pickard's doubtless gifts as a writer, since the persons who should have been consulted on the issue of road safety apparently never were when the trail was created -- namely, state, county, and insurance safety engineers. My father was a safety engineer, who would have taken about one afternoon to recommend answers to the hazards of that fatal road crossing. There must be quite a few safety specialists in Massachusetts since, when I lived in New England back in the 60s, there were plenty of road signs.
There were also hiking trails, many of which crossed paved roads. Didn't Nancy Pickard ever hear of multiple signs warning of pedestrian crossings? Of blinking red lights? Ordinary stop signs at the bottom of the grade, on both sides of the trail, would have prevented every one of the fatalities caused by the carelessness of a person who seemed not to wander from his own yard and driveway.
Look, I live in Philadelphia. We have a long woodsy hiking trail winding along a scenic creek with urban neighborhoods on either side. Going from the Chestnut Hill neighbohood to the Andorra neighborhood, a heavily trafficked road crosses this trail -- and vice-versa. This crossing is protected by stop signs, and elswehere by traffic overpasses. Urban trails are, of course, inherently somewhat unsafe. The trails in Philly are sometimes stalked by muggers and rapists, but if any hiker has been killed by a vehicle in the seven years I've lived in Philly I've never heard of it.
I'm sorry that the Jenny Cain series is at an end, but perhaps Ms. Pickard realized that something went wrong with this book. I just wish Jenny had gone out like a lioness.