Review Blog

Apr 15 2013

Killing Rachel by Anne Cassidy

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The murder notebooks series. Bloomsbury, 2013. ISBN 9781408815519.
(Age 12+) When Rose receives a series of pleading messages from a former friend, hurtful memories are aroused, prompting her to recall a tormented friendship. Flashback episodes explain that Rose is orphaned following the mysterious disappearance and presumed death of her mother and her partner, both of whom were police working on an important and secret case. Rose attended boarding school following here bereavement and gradually became friends with Rachel, a confusing and manipulative girl who delighted in melodrama and attention.
After Rose learns of the drowning death of Rachel, a sense of guilt and sorrow prompts her to revisit her old College, partly to reconnect with staff and students, but also to try to understand the circumstances of her estranged friend's passing. Joshua, whom Rose considers a 'half brother' being the son of her late mother's partner, drives her to the distant College, before detouring to undertake his own investigation into matters relating to their parents' disappearance.
Two separate mysteries are involved in this story, which is fine, except that Cassidy assumes prior knowledge regarding the parents' death from the previous book Dead time. The conveyance of the detail to inform the reader is awkward and I think that a prologue summarising the story to date would have worked more effectively than trying to weave detail into the narrative, character's thoughts and dialogue. Rose's jealous, romantic desire for Josh is an uncomfortable incongruity, given the emphasis on her perception of him as a half brother.
This is a good story when it comes together, however not much involving Rose happens prior to page two hundred and I am not confident that readers of 12 onwards to whom this is pitched will have enough patience to get there. The pain and suffering of adolescent friends quarrelling, reconciling and then destroying their relationship is depicted beautifully, as are the volatile and sometimes nasty aspects of adolescent girls' friendship groups and exclusion practices.
The story is compelling as Rose and Josh stumble over clues about their parents' demise and a remarkably coincidental connection with Rachel can be forgiven in the context of the story line.
Whilst no extreme violence is depicted, thugs make some unpleasant threats and the theme of people trafficking is referred to without the exploitative details being discussed.
Rob Welsh

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