A transplanted Kansas teen tries to make sense of a brutal murder in Brashear’s debut.
Sixteen-year-old Carly narrates the story of a murder that gripped the small Kansas town of Holcomb in 1959, when Herb and Bonnie Clutter, along with their teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon, were killed without obvious motive. Truman Capote would immortalize the subsequent manhunt and trial in his masterpiece In Cold Blood. Brashear chooses to tell the story from the perspective of a presumably fictional white girl who wanted to be—but wasn’t quite—Nancy’s friend. Ex–New Yorker Carly searches for evidence, going so far as to hold a séance at the scene of the crime; she’s interrogated by police and, like everyone else in the town, interviewed by Capote. Kansan Brashear writes smoothly, but her novel is problematic on several fronts. Carly never emerges with a clear motive for her snooping, uncovering nothing of value, and her personal narrative arc seems slight. Worse, modern teens aren’t likely to understand that this is a retelling of a nearly 60-year-old crime story. Without background, Capote and his female friend, Nelle Lee (later author of To Kill a Mockingbird), seem like odd distractions from the main narrative. There’s no author’s note to separate fact from fiction or to inform readers what happened after the trial, and without context the story doesn’t really hold up on its own.
Interesting but befuddled. (map) (Historical fiction. 13-17)