I was actually kind of dreading revisiting this one, because the prospect of getting inside all those teenage girls’ heads just felt like way too much to handle at the moment. I used to be a teenaged girl, and I do not miss it. French is such a good writer, so evocative, that I just knew it was going to bring me right back to my own teenage years: the drama and the constant worrying about fitting in, and the petty cruelty, right alongside the intense friendships and insularity.
It helps, though, that a large part of the story here is our four main girls deciding just to absolutely not give one single shit about what their peers think of them, and to just do what they like and be what they like instead.
The parts with the detectives, all set during single day, in which they attempt to wrap up a case that’s been cold for a year before it slips through their fingers, were great. I knew they were going to be great. I really hold affection for Stephen Moran, our narrator, and Conway is a tough cookie, but I find her fascinating. I’m glad we get one more book of both of them (with Conway as narrator this time).
Something I caught this time around that made me rethink the book a little was the emphasis on insiders and outsiders. All of the high school scenes are consumed with this, and everyone at their school deems Holly and her friends “freaks” because they consciously stop making an effort to play the games everyone else does to fit in. Becca wears jeans to a dance, and everyone loses their minds, because you can’t do that! Doesn’t she care what the other girls are going to say about her? This genuineness is extremely freeing to them, but it also causes problems. Their peace of mind is bought with a loss of perspective, and a little bit of reality.
Contrast this with Conway, who refuses to compromise herself one tiny bit for the sexist pigs that work in Murder with her, and sets herself apart from them on purpose. This hurts her career, and presumably Stephen’s when he sides with her, and that is frustrating. The insularity of the atmosphere in Murder has become so bad that it’s toxic, and that gets explored more next book. The cops that work there have also lost perspective, valuing their in-behaviors more than the job they’re supposed to be doing. Their reality is warped. SPOILERS Becca values the sanctity of her friendships over the life of a boy she likes, for the same reason END SPOILERS.
Will revisit the last Dublin Murder book probably in fall before French’s next book comes out. It looks very interesting, but part of me wants her to come back to this series, too.