Review Blog

Jul 07 2015

The girl is murder by Kathryn Miller Haines

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The Girl is Murder bk 1. Roaring Brook Press, 2011. ISBN 9781596436091
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Mystery. Historical. World War 2 US. Iris Anderson's world has fallen apart. Her father has lost his leg in the attack on Pearl Harbour and has returned home, determined to make a go of his private detective agency. Iris is dying to help him out, especially when his is engaged to find a boy from her school who has gone missing, but he is not interested so she sets out on her own to investigate. She finds herself sneaking out, going to dances in Harlem and getting mixed up with a cool gang at school.
This is a very solid and interesting mystery set in World War 2 in New York. I loved the historical aspect, the feelings about the war, the youth of the soldiers who were having a last fling and descriptions of the clothes, dancing and attitudes. The dialogue abounds with slang from the period and references to dances and music make it a fascinating study of the time. All this provides a great backdrop to the mystery of the young boy who has gone missing. The author provides lots of red herrings to bamboozle the reader and there are plenty of clues that I recognised in hindsight after the thrilling ending.
The characterisation is quite complex as well. Iris is grieving for her mother who has committed suicide, and neither she nor her father know why. She doesn't have much of a relationship with her father, who has been away for most of the previous five years and is unhappy that she has had to leave her private school and go to a public school where she has no friends. Teen readers will identify with her belief that she is capable of investigating on her own and will be able to see the danger that she puts herself in by sneaking out and going to forbidden places. The contrast between the rich and poor, the attitudes to Germans and Italians, the effect that the war has had on her father and her friend Pearl is all richly described.
Readers who enjoy mysteries will love the sassy heroine, the great supporting characters and the fascinating plot in The girl is murder. It is followed by The girl is trouble.
Pat Pledger

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