This book wound up on my to read thanks to a Read Harder Challenge from 2020 – read a mystery where the victim is not a woman – and the fact that I had loved the previous books I had read by Diana Peterfreund, For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star-Swept Sea (as well as their accompanying prequel short stories Among the Nameless Stars and The First Star to Fall). It ended up in my hands thanks to my book exchange gifter, NTE.
What we have with In the Hall with the Knife is Peterfreund getting to play around in the Clue sandbox. You read that right, the title is not just a play on the game’s phrasing (there are two more books in this trilogy, In the Study with the Wrench and In the Ballroom with the Candlestick) but a direct homage to the source material. Peterfreund takes the board game and movie and turns them into a residence hall on a prestigious Maine boarding school where students Vaughn Green, Beth “Peacock” Picach, Orchid McKee, Sam “Mustard” Maestor, Finn Plum, and Scarlet Mistry—are left stranded on campus with their headmaster Mr. Boddy, the janitor Rusty Naylor, and Mrs. White, house mother due to a monstrous December storm that has flooded out the campus and separated it from the mainland due to a washed out bridge and must take safety in the high ground of Tudor House.
Oh, and they awake the next morning to Headmaster Boddy’s dead body. Some suggest an accident, other suggest suicide, but very quickly it is clear that it was murder. It is up to those remaining on campus to sort out what to do, and how to keep their various secrets safe.
The pacing of this one wasn’t great for me, but I think I might just need to take a small break from YA anything since I had similar feelings to Charm and Strange, but this book could easily have lost 50 pages to good, crisp editing (something I have complained about with Peterfreund before). This book begs to be read in the same campy fun as the movie, but the writing isn’t as sharp as the movie dialogue and if you are perhaps as familiar with that movie as me, it shows. I did enjoy the student characters as they are developed on page, although they start as stock characters. Each of the above getting chapters from their perspective (and in the case of tennis star Peacock they are her exercise journal entries). It’s also obvious that Peterfreund had one large story that she broke up into three pieces, while this story did have a definite end as the murderer is caught, the remaining mysteries are left spooled out and new ones introduced.