Teenagers are weird.
I like them. I teach high school; it’s not a job where you’ll last long if you don’t like the target demographic. But they are weird. Half their brains are all grown up and the other half is stuck in childhood. Not always the right parts. They are fiercely loyal, especially to their friends, and they’re at the point where they are developing their own world. Parents not allowed. Except when they get stuck, of course. If you’re lucky.
Detective Stephen Moran is stuck in one of the least desired police departments: cold cases. One day, Holly Mackey, daughter of supreme undercover mugwump Frank Mackey, walks into his office carrying a picture of a boy, with the words I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM neatly written underneath. The boy in the picture was found murdered one year ago on the grounds of Holly’s prestigious hoity-toity boarding school. Together with detective Antoinette Conway, Stephen investigates the opaque world of a girl’s boarding school, with Frank Mackey breathing down his neck.
This was not my favourite French novel. I mostly like her books, though some of them have the tendency to become a tad over-ponderous and they’re about as cheerful as a hearse with a punctured tire. That, I can deal with. What I found harder to swallow here is the way the girls act. It’s about 80% realistic and 20% completely over the top (except for the obligatory Mean Girls, who are 5% realistic and 95% completely over the top). But the atmosphere is a bit too ethereal Hogwarts-y to be entirel convincing.
Aside from that, there’s a lot to unpack, from the school’s hallowed tradition, to the complex lay-out of the grounds, to the relationship between single-sex schools and teenage romance, to classicism. French is usually quite adept at intertwining these issues, but for me it never really got off the ground here.
And let’s get one thing out of the way: Frank Mackey is an asshole and not nearly as much fun as French apparently thinks.
I like most of French’s books, and she’s a gifted writer good at drafting plots and characters, but this one, for me, read more like an okay-ish fanfic than the real thing. I’ll still read her next book, but I’m in no rush to get there.