Iris Anderson is a girl detective. She’s still new at the job but she’s got the drive. Thing is, she’s just 15 and she’s doing it to help out her father who lost a leg in Pearl Harbor. Times are tough for them as it is, but it’s 1942, her mother’s just committed suicide, and Iris has left her Upper West Side high school for a neighborhood on the Lower East Side. Her Pop doesn’t want her to do it, but when one of his cases concerns a boy at her new school, Iris is on the job. From Harlem to her old haunts, she’ll solve the case.
I adored this book. If you know me, you know noir makes my heart beat all wild. So when I got a chance to review this, I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, my copy came somewhere near that MayJuneJuly melee that was my life, and this review fell by the wayside. However, I am happy to report that I will be also reviewing the sequel!
The Girl is Murder wasn’t exactly noir, but I still enjoyed it all the same. The publisher copy mentions it’s good for Veronica Mars fans and I’d say yes, it is. If you love being entrenched in a certain historical period, you’ll love The Girl is Murder. The slang, the dresses, movies, just the daily details of life, I ate it up. Especially the slang. And how perfect is that cover? Plus anything set in the more “Golden Age” of New York = automatic read for me. I was quite sad, though, that Rockfeller Center wasn’t mentioned as that is my favorite building in the entire world and I can spout endless trivia about it.
Author Kathryn Miller Haines writes extensively about the 1940′s in WWII New York (actually all of her books, both adult and YA, have that setting) and her love of that period is evident. She develops the poignant issues of the time nicely: antisemitism (Iris’ father has changed their Jewish surname), race, class, wartime sentiments, and more. It provided so many layers to the novel. I even found myself learning along the way about 40′s fashion such as zoot suits and the importance of fabric rationing. I am stifling my need to put a “More You Know” graphic here!
Other reviewers have mentioned the mystery feels a bit slow. I’d agree, but I did enjoy seeing how Iris pieced it together, and the rest is a fast read. Iris as a character was fascinating, and her transition from privileged upper class girl to public school girl and low east side “slummer” was gratifying, especially as she reflected on her own past actions. She’s fierce, resilient and determined, qualities it seem surprise even her. The other characters in the novel, Suzie, Pearl, Iris’s friends, and her Polish landlady Mrs. Mrozenski (who I wanted to live with), I really hope they return in the sequel. Even the gang “The Rainbows” added something to the story. (And that was a TOUGH gang name by 1940′s standards?)
If I had to pinpoint one issue I didn’t like, it would be the resolution of the Tom story. I wanted something more dramatic, and large scale. It was still well done, but didn’t suit my tastes. (We can all be picky!) The Girl is Murder has made its home next to my oft-read copy of other teen-girl sleuth favorite, Dani Noir.
Copy for review provided by the publisher, Roaring Brook
Title: The Girl is Murder
Author: Kathryn Haines
Date: July 2011
Publisher: Roaring Brook
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