Melanie Middleton is a realtor who specializes in historic Charleston, South Carolina homes, even though she personally hates old houses. When a new client passes away – a man Melanie met exactly one time and didn’t exactly get the warm fuzzies from – and leaves her his huge historic home to restore, Melanie must think twice about her rule against living in old homes as a stipulation of the will is that she physically live in the house for one year. So she sets to work restoring the house, enlisting her best friends, her (formerly) estranged father, and Jack Trenholm, a true crime writer who is researching the history of the family who owned the home for a new book. There is definitely a mystery wrapped up in this house, and it’s up to Melanie and Jack to solve it.
I’ve seen this book around a lot in the past year or so, but I wasn’t too interested in it until after reading Karen White’s The Lost Hours (my review). I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Lost Hours, and so I finally picked up another one of White’s novels. I absolutely enjoyed The House on Tradd Street and now I’m really starting to kick myself for not having discovered Karen White earlier in my reading life. This book kept me entertained throughout, it held my attention, and I was able to become immersed in the characters and the story very early on in the novel.
Melanie was absolutely my favorite character in the book. She was smart and sassy, a successful businesswoman who knew how to take care of herself and knew exactly what she wanted out of life. But those characters contributed to some of her weaknesses too – she had a difficult time with trust, she wasn’t interested in depending on anyone else, and she had this attitude where she was not open to changing her mind about things (about seeing the beauty in old houses, for instance). These flaws made her realistic, someone I could relate to and get to know. In addition, liking her so much made me really appreciate her development and growth as a character throughout the book. It was such a joy to watch. I definitely liked Jack too, but I found aspects of their relationship to be slightly odd. For example – he moved into her house after they’d known each other for how long? And as soon as she mentions going on a date with someone else he gets super possessive and acts like a teenager because why? Besides those minor flaws in their relationship, I enjoyed reading their witty banter back and forth as they grew to know and care about one another. It was definitely a sweet and fun relationship.
I truly enjoyed the mystery aspect to this novel. I thought it was crafted very intelligently because I personally had no idea what would happen in the end. I was surprised but also satisfied with the conclusion of the book. To me, that’s the mark of a perfect mystery – when the conclusion is a surprise to me, but it makes sense how everything turns out.
The House on Tradd Street was a truly satisfying mystery with enough focus on the relationships to classify it as women’s fiction as well. I think Karen White is a truly talented author and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.