Welcome to the first Mondays are for Murder post for 2016! Today’s book is a YA offering that I originally put on my TBR list simply because I have a bit of a jealous spot for Northern Hemispherites’ ability to wear ugly Christmas jumpers, as well as the fact that the blurb described it as “hilarious”. No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale is the first in a series featuring ordinary teen, Kippy Bushman, and the shenanigans that go on in her sleepy hometown of Friendship, Wisconsin. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population:
689 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.
Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.
When Ruth Fried is found hanging from a tree in a cornfield, her mouth stuffed with straw and sewn shut, the town of Friendship manages, against all odds, to maintain its placatory façade. Only Kippy Bushman, Ruth’s awkward best friend, and Davey Fried, Ruth’s older brother and returned serviceman, can’t just slide back into the bland, happy mask favoured by most of the town’s populace. When the town’s sheriff claims to have caught the killer, things seem far too simple and convenient for Kippy’s liking and she sets out on a one-woman quest to find the real murderer. Unfortunately for her, Kippy has a real talent for mucking things up and soon finds herself in the sights of the town’s sheriff. Will Kippy be able to stay out of the lockup long enough to prove that the police have the wrong guy?
The Usual Suspects:
Working, as Kippy is, from Ruth’s diary, there is only ever a short list of suspects on the list in this one. There’s Ruth’s boyfriend Colt, who believes he’s God’s gift to women; the small town lawyer who may have been getting a little too close to Ruth, if you know what I mean; some of the “mean girls” of the town who were jealous of Ruth’s relationship with Colt; and the small town Sheriff, who is low on brains and motivation, but has all the know-how to cover up a murder.
The Hunt for the Murderer/s:
Being that this is a YA comedy sort of murder mystery, the hunt for the killer is haphazard, full of ridiculous antics and ably assisted by the members of Kippy’s Violence-Anonymous Support Group. While all the “steps” of the murder mystery plot are present, this one is really focused on Kippy and her antics. Although having said that, the reveal is quite action-packed and there are enough red-herrings included so that it isn’t immediately obvious who the killer might be.
Three poison bottles for the steady drip, drip, drip, of tears on your dead-best-friend’s diary
While this was by no means the greatest murder mystery I have ever read, there is plenty to enjoy in the first of this series if you are happy to put your critical, murder mystery brain to one side and just go with the flow. The overall tone of this one reminded me strongly of the humour in Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens, in which every character is majorly flawed in some way. I found every single character in No One Else Can Have You nails-down-the-chalkboard irritating but as I also got the sense that this was a deliberate move by the author, I was able to eventually forgive this and get on with enjoying the story. There is a LOT of teen angst in this book, given that Kippy is a pretty anxious sort of girl, and there is also a bit of awkward teen romance to round things out. Essentially, potential readers should be warned that this is a YA novel first and a murder mystery second, but for all that, it would be an excellent choice for a holiday or beach read.
Kippy is certainly a memorable character, but I don’t think I’ll be moving on to Nothing Bad is Going to Happen which is the next in the series.
Until next time,