Despite its interesting premise, this debut falls short of its potential.

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TO CATCH A KILLER

Scarborough’s debut mystery novel follows a teenager on a journey to find her mother’s killer.

The only memories Erin (who is white) has of her mother can be found in the police reports detailing the circumstances of her death. When Erin was 2, her mother was murdered and the killer got away. Now 16, Erin has been studying forensics with the goal of one day solving the murder. She finds an ally in her biology teacher, Miss P, but when Erin discovers her teacher’s dead body, she suspects this may be the work of her mother’s killer. Things are further complicated when Erin’s crush, Journey (also white), becomes tangled up in the case as a possible suspect. Realizing the bond between them, the two team up to investigate the case with help from Erin’s resourceful friends, Spam and Lysa. Cue the clunky murder attempts on Erin’s life, suspicious adults, and convenient clues. While Erin is a character that readers can easily sympathize with as she struggles to grapple with her dark past, some of the novel’s other characters are not fully fleshed out. Spam and Lysa have the potential to be spunky sidekicks but come off as two-dimensional, the former possibly Latina and a funky dresser and the latter flawlessly golden-skinned and dressed to the nines. The plot has the potential to be gripping but doesn’t deliver any surprises—not even the killer's identity.

Despite its interesting premise, this debut falls short of its potential. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8191-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A fast-paced, plot-driven page-turner for fans of darker mysteries.

THE LOST

A teen fights to survive in the midst of a mystery not unlike the ones she enjoys reading.

In the small town of Mauveton, 11 teenagers have disappeared in the past six months. The police seem to be writing them off as runaways, but introverted 16-year-old crime enthusiast Piper and her friend Hazel believe there is more to the story. The girls decide to investigate the disappearances by following in the footsteps of the missing teens right before they supposedly ran away. While hanging out at the local lake where most of the town’s teens spend their free time during the summer, they run into a couple of wealthy local college boys. They soon discover the truth: Locked away in a hidden compound filled with horrific surprises, Piper has to find the will to survive and make it back to her parents alive, especially since they already lost one daughter. Preston (You Will Be Mine, 2018, etc.) weaves a terrifying tale with unexpected friendships, romance, and surprising twists. Most characters are assumed white, but there is some diversity in secondary characters. While the unforeseen twists and unexpected ending make this an intriguing read, the story moves very quickly, leaving little room for relationships and characters to develop believably.

A fast-paced, plot-driven page-turner for fans of darker mysteries. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5226-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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