Yvette has her entire life in order. She has a husband, three kids, a dog, and a good relationship with her parents. Her biggest gripe is a mean neighbor full of complaints about Yvette’s barking dog. Cruella de Vil, as she is called, soon becomes a mystery to Yvette after a box is accidently delivered to Yvette’s house. After some time, and UPS repeatedly failing to pick it up, Yvette opens the box to see if the contents can be useful. This is when she learns that the box was meant to be delivered to Cruella. In going to Cruella’s house, Yvette is sucked into a horrifying tale that led her neighbor to become the reclusive, crazy woman that she is now.
While staying behind from Spring Break vacation, Yvette learns not only her neighbor’s story but secrets about her own life. Nothing is as it seems in her life, and she soon becomes reunited with family that she never knew she had.
Yvette learns that Cruella, also known as Mona, is in hiding from a once college professor turned lover, and eventually, captor. Mona made the first move to ruin her life when she left her long time fiancée in college to pursue her philosophy teacher, Ahmed. Ahmed turned out to be a crazy man working part time for the Taliban. He also claimed to be a scientist and focused his research on reasons people commit suicide. He captured people, typically women, to perform his experiments on.
Over just a few days, Yvette learns more about her family, where she came from, and the twin she never knew she had. She also learns about a large inheritance from a family member which raises more questions. It also leads her to wonder if she is being taken advantage of and manipulated as Mona once was; if her tale is true.
The Mystery Box was a real thriller, with a bulk of the action happening through the story Mona tells Yvette each afternoon. This didn’t detract from the flow of the story, only added a layer of mystery. Having the narration switch from Yvette thinking and talking to listening through Mona kept me on my toes and paying attention to what was going on more than I would have if there had been one narrator. It also allowed the reader to see where the character ended up without knowing their story until it slowly unfolded before their eyes.
In the beginning, the puzzle was simple; there was a box and Mona’s story. It seemed fairly straightforward. Slowly more pieces were added and it seemed as though these pieces couldn’t possibly be part of the same puzzle, just the stories of two people who happened to meet. Slowly, the reader was able to see the connections forming, no matter how unbelievable and unlikely.
I began to think about how I would feel if my entire world was tipped upside down the way Yvette’s was. Would I allow myself to possibly be conned simply because I wanted to believe, wanted something to be true? Could I turn my back on the possibility that I was being taken advantage of just to make myself happy? Would I ever truly be happy with this scenario? Truth be told, I probably would—allow it, not be happy. I would probably give a person the benefit of the doubt, simply because I could never scam someone else. I know it happens, but after getting to know someone, after trusting them, I just don’t see how they could follow through with such an awful plan.
I also found it odd that Yvette stays home from a family vacation to learn more about Mona. My first thought was, doesn’t her husband mind? Wouldn’t he be a little suspicious? I know I would be. I then saw the connection, whether the author intended it or not. Mona stayed behind from a Spring Break vacation with her fiancée. This is when her life took a turn in the wrong direction. Then, Yvette stays behind from a Spring Break vacation, and although her life didn’t turn in such a direction, it did turn.
Yvette seems to take everything that she learns about her family in perfect stride. I’m not sure that I would be so cool-headed if my life, and all of the beliefs about my family, were turned completely around. Even when Yvette learns a new fact, only to later learn that it isn’t completely true, she doesn’t lose her composure, she simply accepts it and moves on. She says that she is upset, but her actions are rarely frantic or irrational the way mine would be if I were truly upset and freaking out.
The ending to the story didn’t tie up all of the questions that I had about the plot. It also didn’t leave them untouched upon. The author simply left the reader to make their own determination about what happened. The fact is, the main character isn’t quite sure about motives by the end, so neither is the reader. This was a source of frustration for me. After investing time into a story, I like to know the outcome, not guess upon it for days to come. I’d like to believe that authors use this as a way to make a sequel. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t seem to leave room for much of a follow-up.
Eva Pohler appears to be an excellent story teller, and Magpies in Winter has been bumped up on my TBR list.