A light scattering of digital inserts doesn’t raise the grade of this mannered tale of high school murder, published on paper in 2009.
Framed as transcribed entries from a found journal, the open-ended tale begins with the discovery of a (supposed) murder-suicide and ends with the further death of a (purported) witness. In between, the unnamed narrator intersperses the account of the investigations with low opinions of fellow students, teachers, school lunch, Hemingway and like adolescent targets. A clutch of ambiguous incidents, inscrutable clues and unreliable-sounding witnesses all remain so at the end and shed no more light on what’s going on than do the bombastic side comments (“Intelligence is gender neutral, but stupidity is a bitch”) that appear when the antique woodcut vignettes scattered throughout are clicked. Nor are readers likely to be engaged by the narrator’s teasing refusals to reveal his or her gender (a reference to a boys’ gym class is probably an authorial mistake rather than a deliberate clue). A jumbled Blair Witch Project–style video trailer is tacked to the front end.
Ambitious, but seriously lacking polish—and also a reason to read any sequels. (Enhanced e-book mystery. 12-14)