Sara Shepard, author of the Pretty Little Liars series, has a twisty, thrilling new cold-case mystery series, The Amateurs!


Five years after high school senior Helena Kelly disappeared from her backyard, her younger sister Aerin reaches out for help solving the case on the Case Not Closed website message board.

College freshman Seneca Frazier is informed about the post by her Case Not Closed friend, Maddy (Maddox) Wright, a high school senior in Dexby, Connecticut, the town where Helena lived and disappeared.

Seneca travels to Dexby on her Spring Break to work the cold case with Maddy.

Maddy invites another friend from the Case Not Closed community, Brett Grady, into the investigation. Over Spring Break the three amateur investigators meet up with Aerin in Connecticut to work the case. Only one thing is clear. Everyone has something to hide.

Now you can get a sneak peek into the new series by reading the transcripts from these interviews with cold case amateur detectives, Aerin, Seneca, Maddox and Brett…

Aerin Kelly

Facts: Helena’s younger sister, high school senior, last one to see her alive

Observations: Blonde, beautiful, popular, wild, wealthy, emotionally damaged by sister’s disappearance

What made you post a plea for help on your sister’s case on the Case Not Solved website? I didn’t want to—who takes an online sleuthing chat group seriously?—but I felt I had no choice. If you ask my family, they couldn’t be bothered worrying about Helena anymore; it happened five years ago, and every therapist we’ve been to has urged us to move on. My mom’s busy with her business. My dad’s checked out, living in New York City. Sometimes I want to scream at them: Hey! Helena, she’s still gone! By making this post, I just wanted someone to pay attention to her again. Someone besides me.

What are your last impressions of your sister before she disappeared? It used to be that my sister and I did everything together; she invited me along wherever she went. But suddenly, she stopped. She spent more time in her room. And she started dressing differently…older, sort of, and maybe not as fashionable, or maybe more fashionable? I didn’t get it. My parents said she was distancing herself just because she’d gotten her first boyfriend, Kevin Larssen. He was okay. I accepted my mom’s assessment at the time, but now I wonder. Was there something more going on?

What haunts you most about your sister’s case? I think what haunts me is that the answer is here. Somewhere. Maybe right in front of me. Maybe someone in Dexby is walking around knowing something, but not telling. And sometimes the idea of finding out the truth freaks me out more than being in the dark. What if it’s something I really, really don’t want to know?

Aerin, how would you describe Brett? If Brett were across the room at a party and my friend were to ask me what his deal was, I’d say, “He’s a fun goofball.” Entertaining to flirt with because his eyes get all big and you can tell how excited he is because he’s got this major crush on you but he’s trying to play it cool. He has a good sense of humor, though. And it’s sweet that he’s helping me figure out what happened to my sister. I can see him becoming a long-term friend.

Seneca Frazier

Facts: Freshman at University of Maryland

Observations: Exotic looking, little makeup, biker boots, standoffish, natural leader, obsessed with solving cold cases

Why did you decide to spend your Spring Break working on Helena Kelly’s cold case? Some things were going on in my life that paralleled hers. They’re things I don’t like thinking about, though, and I’m not going to talk about here. But I didn’t get how a beautiful, privileged girl could disappear without a trace. No suspects. No leads. It was like she was plucked from her snowy backyard and whisked away. There had to be an answer, and I wanted to figure out what it was.

You and Maddy met on the Case Not Closed site but you mentioned you were shocked when you met him. Why? Um, is this a trick question? (Looks around to see if anyone’s watching.) So, I had these preconceived notions about Maddie. Things I thought Maddie was all about, but then Maddie showed up looking…not as I expected. (Pauses. Laughs sheepishly.) Okay, I thought Maddie was going to be a girl. I mean, I befriended a girl on Facebook named Madison Wright…how was I supposed to know that was his sister?

Maddox Wright

Facts: Hometown boy, high school senior, star runner, knows Kelly family personally

Observations: Middle school dork, now considered popular, piercing green eyes, cleft chin, attractive but approachable

You’re a popular jock with a college scholarship. Why are you chasing cold cases? I’ve always found those stories on the news interesting. Unsolved mysteries…all that stuff. My friends wouldn’t get it, but when I’m on the Case Not Closed boards I feel…focused. It’s the same focus I feel when I’m running, but also different. And there’s nothing as thrilling as when you get a lead on a case. Nothing.

You knew Aerin when Helena disappeared. How has Aerin changed since her sister’s disappearance? (Looks over his shoulder) Is she going to read this? Um, Aerin didn’t pay much attention to me when I first knew her. I was just…an extra pillow on the couch, maybe. Someone she didn’t have to talk to because I was just the nanny’s kid. She was pretty sure of herself…but also pretty needy. She needed my mom a ton, and if my mom even talked to me, Aerin freaked. Helena was the nice one—we talked, a little. About music mostly. Where I went to school, what I was reading. I loved her voice. After Helena went missing, I saw Aerin around from time to time, but I hadn’t seen her for several years when Seneca and I decided to knock on her door. It was freaky…she looked like her sister. Grown up. Tall. Beautiful. But there was something haunted about her, too. She’d never let Helena go.

You notified Seneca about Aerin’s post. Why? Man, you aren’t asking easy questions today! Seneca and I met online, through Case Not Closed. I didn’t have any idea what she looked like, what her voice sounded like…nothing. But it didn’t matter because we connected so well. In fact, maybe it’s because we didn’t know what one another looked like that we were able to tell each other things I wouldn’t talk about with my buddies here. Like…deep things. About school, my past, even dating. And I really like that Seneca’s smart. She doesn’t give up on things. There’s a toughness and resilience to her that come from somewhere very deep. She totally doesn’t understand that a guy deserves a pass if he ignores his date on Super Bowl Sunday, though. But we can’t all be perfect.

Brett Grady

Facts: Student at Wesleyan, lives in Greenwich, wealthy

Observations: Statement clothing, oversized hoodie, gold shoes, sensitive, funny, big flirt, no filter, goofball

What first got you involved in trying to solve cold cases? I just want to help people, you know? People who have lost loved ones, who are searching so desperately to find answers…I feel like I really empathize with what they’re going through. I want to give them the answers they can’t find for themselves. Sometimes it takes an outsider looking in to see which pieces don’t add up. I like to think that I spot those incongruous pieces a lot. I’m sort of a cold case master, you could say.

We know, now you’re hooked. So grab a copy of THE AMATEURS and discover who is REALLY behind Helena’s disappearance!