A girl called Justice by Elly Griffiths
Quercus, 2019, ISBN: 9781786540591.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Themes: Boarding schools, Girl detectives, Mysteries. Adult crime writer Elly Griffiths presents a 1930s' mystery with twelve-year-old Justice Jones as an amateur detective, who's been lovingly home-schooled by her mystery writer mother. When her mother passes away, her father Herbert Jones QC sends Justice off to Highbury House Boarding School for the Daughters of Gentlefolk, set amidst the bleak landscape of the Romney Marshes. What an ideal setting for a little mystery, mayhem and murder, an isolated Gothic school, with creaky stairs, hidden rooms, turrets, attics and a creepy basement! Of course, Griffiths sets the scene with an icy winter snowstorm cutting communication off to the outside world, the students and staff are locked in and tensions rise.
Justice's analytical mind, keen sense of observation and her meticulous journal writing assist with her crime-solving, even when overwhelmed with feelings of grief and loneliness. The austere school environment is dominated by a slightly terrifying headmistress Miss de Vere. Everything seems strange to the young girl who's been very close to her mother, from the limited food choices, the strict rules, the icy-cold bathrooms and the grim dormitories. With the help of new friend Stella, a scholarship student, Justice navigates school life and seeks answers to the mystery of the disappearing maid.
Surreptitious notes passed inside books, leads to midnight forays on the way to the haunted tower and secret meetings in the maid's room. The tension builds as the feisty young detective delves into the backgrounds of the staff, takes risks and keeps up with her schoolwork. Through coded messages she keeps her father informed about the dangerous environment.
Elly Griffiths' A Girl called Justice combines a dramatically tense action-packed plot, quirky characters and a resilient protagonist. Her setting of an isolated school on the icy marshes is reminiscent of an Agatha Christie or Enid Blyton novel.
An entertaining mystery suited to readers from ten plus who enjoy a dramatic school story in an English period setting, with a dash of mystery and adventure.