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The Tightrope Walker

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,534 ratings  ·  163 reviews
“They’re going to kill me soon…”

When the quiet and shy Amelia Jones reads these words, her life changes irrevocably. She’s just become the new owner of the Ebbtide Shop, a musty antique store filled with merry-go-round horses and hurdy-gurdies, and it is while fixing one of these barrel organs that the scrawled and threatening note falls out. Armed only with the strange wo
Paperback, 223 pages
Published October 12th 1986 by Fawcett (first published 1979)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  1,534 ratings  ·  163 reviews

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Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the most original plot in all my years reading. It sparks a chase for a related novel; hard to come by and worth the hunt! Amelia bought an antique store and found a note inside an instrument. Someone expected to be killed in a cover-up! If the note were real, it bore no date and only a first name. What would you do?

It took time to synch with this protagonist but the tremendously unique adventure is memorable. It picks up pace. An unusual scenario carrying into real life is Amelia's favo
Debbie Zapata
Dec 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dar
I have spent the last week sorting through all the books in my Arizona bookcases. I haven't even seen most of them for eight years, so this has been a fun journey through my reading history. But I am also culling the herd: dividing everything into Keep, Give Away, or Read ASAP And Then Decide piles. This book was one that I could remember nothing about and I decided to start my re-read list with it.

Dorothy Gilman is best known for her Mrs. Pollifax novels. I've read one or two of those, and I s
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Amelia since it's all about her
Recommended to Mariel by: I make bad decisions
"The curiosity that killed Schrodinger's cat was the only thing that kept him alive, matter of fact. - Eyedea ('Infrared Roses')

Her walls were held up by their quotes to set your watch to. They skipped the butterflies feeling or any real book that kept you good company on your way on their way to inspirational quotes for those who shut their eyes and lived by the first page they opened. If magic eight balls were a thing yet Amelia probably would have been all over "outcome unlikely" and such wor
Jan 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any young woman who is feeling lonely & unlovable; any woman who remembers how that feels
One of my all-time favourite books. Gilman superbly captures the feeling of growing up "odd" & lonely. The lead is as 3 dimensional, complex, contradictory, & endearing as any young woman you've ever known. As Amelia ventures further & further outside of her comfort zones, you find yourself travelling with her, rooting for her, & ultimately feeling a little more alive yourself. An utterly charming & sincere "coming of age" story, barely even dated with its many years. ...more
I love this book. This along with Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animalsand a few others are books that I re-read about once a year. I first read this when I was about twelve and Amelia's quirkiness and loneliness were so appealing.

Dorothy Gilman always creates wonderful characters and Amelia is one of her best. Amelia is an appealing and quirky heroine with her insecurities and her search for emotional as well as physical bravery.

The premise of the story is that Amelia finds a note in a o
I love the Mrs. Pollifax books - what fun. But her non-Pollifax books are real gems.
Diane Lynn
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Wonderful mystery with a very determined heroine. She was a troubled orphan who really came into her own. The ending is really edge of your seat reading!

Only downside was having Donovan's "Hurdy-Gurdy Man" come singing songs of love stuck in my mind. And turns out it's not even a hurdy-gurdy in the book.
S.E. Burr
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book again recently. I'm not much of a mystery reader. This is a mystery, but there's a lot of other things going on, too. There's a love story, Amelia's search for peace and confidence, some really interesting side characters like Daisy, and most of all, what I think the book is really about. I think that at its heart The Tightrope Walker is about the relationship between an author and a reader.

***Spoiler Alert***

The book is deeply concerned with a book Amelia read as a child which
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Tightrope Walker was a quirky little mystery. I enjoyed the endearingly odd protagonist and her single-minded pursuit to help another lonely soul find rest. The book within a book aspect of the story was an added bonus!
A.B. Neilly
Sep 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel, detectives
This is not my kind of book, but I enjoyed the beginning with all the references to Jung and meditation. I would have liked more of that, but the mystery was well built and profited from the main character's naivety, that I loved. It was a fast and easy reading and I liked also the mystery with the fantasy book and her having read it as a child, that reminded me of The Magicians. For lovers of mystery and cute characters. ...more
Jannah Cloud Child
Dec 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Reread as Im trying to squeeze every drop of enjoyment I can out of Gilmans books before I move on to another author who pobably isnt going to measure up. Sob. All her books are so readable exciting, fresh and cozy even though there are dark elements. A genuine delight. Also I love the sprinkles of soul searching and spirituality in them.

**Something different than Mrs Pollifax, slightly more like the Clairvoyant countess in tone, but a more thriller like story in a dream or awakening.

Amelia Jon
Dec 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is the second or third time I've read this book, and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last.
I have a weakness for books where characters are just living their lives, make some sudden, life-altering discovery & pursue a mystery.
I really love and admire Amelia Jones, her quirky impulse to buy an antique shop and investigate a mystery. The other characters that come into her life are equally interesting, and I love seeing the subtle influences they have over her.
There's something inspiring abo
Diane Henders
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery-cozy
I love Dorothy Gilman's writing, and this book in particular! It's just as enjoyable today as it was when this book was published over 25 years ago. Her prim, outwardly naive writing style charms me, and somehow she always made it work, even in action-packed murder mysteries with bullets flying. (She was also the author of the "Mrs. Pollifax" series, stories about a grandmother who becomes a spy in her 60s.)

The Tightrope Walker is not only an absorbing mystery with a main character who's both vu
Ashley Lauren
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
As the mystery genre is severely lacking in my book history, my very good friend Zoe sent me this as an example of one of her favorites. And for good reason! This is one of those books that's a blast to devour. The protagonist is amazing. She's so incredibly believable and interesting in of herself; she comes across as a real human being that you want to learn more about. But Gilman doesn't overload you with personality, she intricately intertwines the story, the mystery, and the characters effo ...more
Susan Bernhardt
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading The Tightrope Walker by Dorothy Gilman for the second time. Dorothy Gilman is an excellent storyteller and all of her mysteries, including her famous Mrs. Pollifax series are outstanding.

This was an intriguing story of a young woman who finds an obscure, chilling message hidden in an antique hurdy-gurdy which speaks of the author's fear of her own demise. With a sense of urgency, the young woman embanks on a dangerous journey to find the author of the message and unravel
Jan 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, mystery
I got this because a) someone in the Legendary Book Club of Habitica guild on Habitica named it as one of their favourite books for a group readalong, and b) I've been meaning to try Dorothy Gilman's books for a while (albeit I usually get recommended the Mrs Pollifax books). At the beginning, Amelia finds a note hidden in a hurdy-gurdy in the antique shop she's recently purchased.

Amelia's had a life half-sheltered by adults (her father, and then a psychiatrist her father paid to help her) and h
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, ya
This book reminds me of the numerous Barbara Michaels books I read and loved as a young teen. Written in 1979, Tightrope Walker strongly conjures the time and place in which the book was written and contemporaneously occurs. I have a particular soft spot for books that like this, which were written in the late 60s to early 80s, and which capture the world I grew up in (example: Judy Blume, Lois Duncan, Barbara Michaels, Cynthia Voigt, etc).

This is a story about an isolated young woman recoverin
Apr 03, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was published in the late 1970’s, but it reads like it was from an earlier, simpler time. While technically this story is a mystery, it is more complicated than that. The book is really about 23-year old Amelia's search for peace and confidence in herself, and how she finds love in an unlikely place. I loved Amelia because she discovered strength and personality within herself, and I loved following her as her confidence grew. Of course, her new-found friend Joe helped a lot, but from ...more
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A young woman just learning to live solves a mystery - but doesn’t that sound dull! The chutzpah of placing her own book, The Maze in the Heart of the Castle, into the plot is beautifully humorous of Gilman. And as usual I am a complete sucker for a plot involving running an antique store and secret mysteries. A positively awesome grownup Nancy Drew story, and another reminder that if only one owns an antique shop, one’s life can be fabulously full of suspense.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Tightrope Walker by Dorothy Gilman was a fascinating mystery novel. The novel starts out with 22-year old Amelia Jones buying an antique shop in which she discovers an old hurdy-gurdy. While playing it one night, she discovers a hidden note inside. The note written by someone named Hannah states that she had signed a form the night before which would be her death sentence. She further writes that the nameless ones are going to murder her but make it look like an accident. Something in the no ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
I actually liked this little novel a lot. Usually Gilman's characters are a little hollow, but this one it worked for me because the character's perspective was similar enough to mine.

The progagonist has been exposed to the worst of human nature very early on, and she struggles throughout the story to reconcile these experiences with the possibility of a 'healthy' life. She goes to a shrink, learns the lingo, reads the books, and basically concludes that being a decent human being is just like b
Jun 04, 2011 rated it liked it
"Sometimes I think we're all tightrope walkers suspended on a wire two thousand feet in the air, and so long as we never look down we're okay, but some of us lose momentum and look down for a second and are never quite the same again: we know." Thus begins the journey of Amelia Jones to solve a decades old murder based on a note found in an old hurdy gurdy. Some authors have an amazing gift for writing which is hard to put into words and has to be experienced to be understood. I believe that Dor ...more
Maria Schneider
Oct 01, 2011 rated it liked it
This was probably 3.5 or 4 stars. It was actually less plausible than the other mysteries by Gilman that I've read, but an enjoyable way to while away the afternoon. There was a LOT of exposition, which was really the only thing wrong with it. There were long passages from court testimony and some other sections that, while important, dragged. The action scenes were very good and the characterization quite fun. One of those decent reads when you need something you know will at least be good enou ...more
Nov 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Mom
Wow. I read this on a whim, as I remembered enjoying the Mrs. Pollifax mysteries I'd borrowed from my grandma when I was a kid. This was a totally different animal, however... I had to force myself to take it slowly and enjoy the mystery and characters unfolding. As other reviewers noted, some of the story is definitely dated, but with a few tweaks I could see it taking place in a more modern setting. I loved the idea of a book-within-a-book, but now that I know Dorothy Gilman wrote Hannah's boo ...more
Carolyn Hill
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and go back every few years to read it. When Amelia Jones finds a note in an old hurdy-gurdy that says, "They're going to kill me soon . . ." she sets out on a path that changes her life. With a great hook, it's a short fast-paced intriguing mystery with a little romance thrown in. Mostly I loved the characters, especially the way Amelia evolves from an invisible, terrified, lonely young woman to an attractive, brave, determined one who discovers love along with her own inner s ...more
Jenn Estepp
Pretty much the definition of a comfort book for me, even though it's my first time through. No real surprises, but in the best way. Plus, I like to think that someday I too will find a sinister note in an old antique and embark on a mystery-solving quest that will bring me fulfillment and love (but maybe not the attempts on my life).

Also, if this were written today, like 85% of it would be solved via the Internet.
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
It's a mystery! It's a coming of age story! It's a road trip! Reading this was like reading the kind of mysteries I loved as a kid, except, for a grown-up. I also kind of adored all the seventies touches. Like the bellbottoms and the plants in rope hangers. And the VAN. ...more
Oct 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
I read this for college and honestly, it was so boring that it took me like three weeks to finish it. Annoying main character; rushed, forced and unnecessary love interest and I just don't like reading mystery novels, they bore me to no end. ...more
Lauren Albert
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I enjoyed this though I found the romance a bit predictable--it also happened to fast. In my humble opinion, most people would have gone to the police after finding the letter, but hey, I'm not a writer. ...more
Janice Mcmullen
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Dorothy Gilman is a treasure. All of her Mrs. Polifax novels were a joy to read. This is the first I have read of her non-Polifax novels and plan to read all of them.
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Dorothy Gilman was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to minister James Bruce and Essa (Starkweather) Gilman. She started writing when she was 9 and knew early on she was to be a writer. At 11, she competed against 10 to 16-year-olds in a story contest and won first place. She attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and briefly the University of Pennsylvania. She planned to write and illustrate ...more

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“I'm in a weird place because the book is about to come out. So I'm basically just walking around like a raw nerve and I'm not sure that I...
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“I mean, have you ever stopped to realize - not just the miracle that life is - but how basically comic it is despite its griefs? The wonder of it, as Amman Singh says, is that we take it so seriously. One day, poised on my tightrope, I hope to manage a glorious cartwheel, or at the very least a pirouette.” 0 likes
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