Sherlock Holmes, if Holmes were a biracial, at-risk, 16-year-old slacker—a genius stoner who consorts with burglars and homeless dropouts.
Garvie is many things: a math whiz and certified genius with a photographic memory; a layabout who rarely goes to class; a smartarse; "a rational thinker, precise and unsentimental." His friends call him Sherlock and Puzzle Boy. He's also the ex-boyfriend of Chloe Dow, a violet-eyed, busty, charismatic, unpopular—and now dead—blonde white girl. Chloe's murder knocks Garvie out of his bored semistupor. Despite his mother's threats to move the family to her native Barbados, Garvie throws himself into the investigation with all his reckless brilliance. Detective Inspector Singh, the Sikh police officer investigating Chloe's murder, is torn between exasperation and reluctant gratitude for the boy's Holmes-ian deductions. Garvie ponders seemingly unrelated clues—a black Porsche, a shopping list, ugly lime-green–and-orange running shoes—and puts together a disturbing story of victimization. Girls and women in Garvie's world seem mostly to be ineffectual, oversexed, or victims of violent and sexually predatory men. Meanwhile, though Garvie himself is a welcome mixed-race detective, several of the other characters are drawn with stale, albeit affectionate stereotypes.
Paced like a television police procedural, with flashes of epiphany, false leads, and race-against-time dangers, this satisfying whodunit overcomes its characterization shortcomings. (Mystery. 13-15)