In the Hall with the Knife | book review

In the Hall with the Knife

Author: Diana Peterfreund
Series: Clue Mystery, #1
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Abrams
Original Publication Date: 2019
Genre(s): Young adult, Mystery, Fiction

When a huge storm cuts off Blackbrook academy from the mainland, a handful of students and staff are stranded on campus in Tudor House, forced to wait it out with no power, no WiFi, and no help in sight. When Headmaster Boddy is found dead the next morning with a knife in his chest, things take a turn for the worse. Did he kill himself? Unlikely. Did a looter try taking advantage of the storm, thinking Tudor was abandoned but instead ran into Boddy? Possibly. Or could it be their worst fear: one of them killed him.

I had HIGH hopes for this book, guys. Like, I was picturing a Truly Devious-esque mystery story with some CLUE nostalgia thrown in, making one hell of a book. Instead, I almost put the book down as soon as I picked it up… I didn’t quit, though I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Let’s unpack this.

The book is told in third-person POV with a whopping SIX alternating perspectives. Yep, each MC gets their own chapters. Though it’s told in third-person, each chapter gives us insight into that character’s thoughts, so we get to follow the mystery through each of them. At first, it’s a little…much. That’s a hefty amount of characters to keep straight, along with three adult characters and a handful of other students thrown into the mix that don’t get their own chapters. Eventually it does get easier, though, as each character is distinct through their unique names/nicknames and voices. And, to throw some CLUE into the story, most of the MCs have names reminiscent of the characters in the board game and film:

Vaughn Green — the local kid
Scarlet Mistry — the queen bee
Phineas “Finn” Plum — the hipster science nerd
Samuel “Mustard” Maestor — former military academy student
Beth “Peacock” Picah — tennis star

And then Mr. Boddy is the headmaster, and Mrs. White is the proctor of Tudor. They do not have any chapters, though.

Oddly enough, one student who DID have a chapter but not a CLUE tie-in name: Orchid McKee. Even stranger, her perspective starts the book, which must have some sort of significance. Though I do have a theory on why Mrs. White was a staff member instead of using her name to create Orchid. But that gives away part of the story, so I’ll hush 🙂

Plot-wise, the book was okay. There was only one murder, but the suspense does live on until the last page. The killer slowly becomes obvious, so the reveal isn’t a huge twist or shocker (though it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense). Even though the murder is resolved, the ending leaves us with more questions than answers, tbh. I’m not sure if I’m necessarily interested in finding out those answers, or if I’m just annoyed about the strange secrets the characters are keeping and the reasons behind them. Also, the “cliffhanger” ending was basically just the author saying, “hey, here’s more random shit I didn’t tell you about until the last page! Ha! Read my next book!”

And don’t even get me started on the writing… That’s the reason I wanted to quit right off the bat. I did not like the writing. Especially the dialogue. Often the things the characters (teens AND adults) just sounded forced and fake. It was kind of awkward the whole time.

So, I didn’t love this book. Though I didn’t DNF it, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. If you’re looking for a light mystery (filled with more teen drama than actual mischief and murder) that’s more for fun than anything else, sure, this is a good one to choose. But if you’re looking for what I was looking for—a Truly Devious-esque mystery with CLUE nostalgia thrown in—I’m not sure you’ll find that here.

My Rating

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