Lesley Kagen's debut novel Whistling in the Dark is a coming-of-age thriller told from the point of view of a 10 year old girl named Sally. The novel is set in Milwaukee during the summer of 1959 and follows Sally and her younger sister. A lot has changed in Sally's life recently beginning with a promise that she made to her father before he died that she would take care of her younger sister Troo who is 9.
Shortly after the death of their father, the girl's mother remarrys a not so nice man, becomes ill and ends up in the hospital for an extended period of time. The young girls are pretty much left to fend for themselves for the summer when there is a child molester and murderer on the loose. Over imaginative Sally believes that she will be the next victim and she might not be imagining it after all.
This novel is so wonderful because it is told through the naive and innocent eyes of a 10 year old. The frankness with which she describes topics such as the "fast" girl in the neighborhood "getting some sex" and the confusion of how baseball relates to what the older kids do in the backseats of cars is at times very funny. The characters in her neighborhood are richly developed and it makes the reader want to sit down with the women, have a cup of tea, and gossip with them about what's going on in the house next door behind closed blinds.
This novel is charming, full of heart, and suspenseful all at the same time. It really takes the reader back to a time of innocence and draws you into the story until you are with the neighborhood children running the streets and trying to solve a mystery.