Author Cecile Blanche Lamb (real name Sallie-Nikki Logan) shot to national prominence with her 2005 bestseller Between the Tweens. A tale of 6th and 7th grade girls that was alternately flighty and weightily dramatic, it landed Lamb on both the bestseller lists and the ALA’s Most Challenged Book registry. For the 24-year-old author, a struggling teacher with crippling student loans and a part-time career as a substitute, the book and ensuing controversy was manna from heaven.

Even as parents across the nation demonstrated to have Lamb’s book removed from libraries and reading lists, the author wrote a sequel, Tween Choice Awards. It may not have impressed the critics who lauded the first title, but Lamb soon turned the book into a series with a new entry every year. By 2010 the fifth book spent ten weeks on the bestseller lists even as the controversy faded and critics (as well as readers) began to complain that the later titles were stale and derivative. Even so, Lamb amassed thousands of followers on her blog and Twitter accounts.

In November 2010, Lamb’s husband Michel Logan returned home to find his wife’s study in tatters, with broken windows, other signs of forced entry and struggle, and no sign of Lamb other than her cell phone under a desk. The computer was destroyed and the draft of Lamb’s latest book was missing. After he called the police, Michel was approached by his wife’s fans, who shared the last message poster to her Twitter:

“i thnk theres soemone in teh house.”

A nationwide manhunt was soon touched off, and Lamb became an instant cause celebré in social media, even among those who had disparaged her writing. #helpcecilelamb was the number one tag the week after the author vanished, and major news organizations covered the case with obsessive detail. Friends and publishing industry figures organized a fundraiser to help cover the cost of the ongoing investigation, and there was talk of renaming a major young adult industry award after Lamb.

But just as quickly as the narrative was established, it began to unravel. Investigators learned that Lamb had been carrying on an open affair with a coworker, and letters surfaced in which Lamb claimed that her side of the issue wasn’t “sympathetic” enough if it came to a messy public divorce. Forensic investigators found that the shattered glass was consistent with an inside breakage, and recovered text files on the computer showed that the novel on which Lamb had supposedly been working was all lorem ipsum filler.

Indeed, a careful analysis of the scene revealed that Lamb had taken a taxi and that, far from being abducted, she had been seen with an unknown male companion at her favorite health spa in New Mexico. As public opinion turned against her, the sightings ceased. Though the police were loath to devote additional resources to a hoax, the case officially remained open.

Lamb’s whereabouts remain unknown to this day.

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