It’s murderous Monday once again and today I have a right cracker of a contemporary murder mystery for you: Running Girl by Simon Mason. I can tell you that this would have been a Top Book of 2016 pick for sure, except it was published in 2014. Instead, I’m going to submit it for both the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge and my own Title Fight Reading Challenge but I’ll leave those specific details until the end of the post. Running Girl is touted as a YA offering, but I don’t see it personally, and would happily place it in adult fiction any day of the week. But since today isn’t any day of the week, let’s get on with Mondays are for Murder with the blurb from Goodreads:
Meet Garvie Smith. Highest IQ ever recorded at Marsh Academy. Lowest ever grades. What’s the point, anyway? Life sucks. Nothing ever happens.
Until Chloe Dow’s body is pulled from a pond.
DI Singh is already on the case. Ambitious, uptight, methodical – he’s determined to solve the mystery and get promoted. He doesn’t need any ‘assistance’ from notorious slacker, Smith.
Or does he?
Beautiful, athletic, better-than-you, sixteen year old Chloe Dow goes missing after her daily run and a few days later is pulled from a pond along one of her regular running routes. Garvie Smith used to date Chloe and, what with his enormous brain, immediately and quietly puts his mind to unravelling the loose ends that are flapping all over Chloe’s murder. DI Singh is on his first major murder case and wants to trust his instincts, but as promising leads vanish into the ether, he may be forced to ask the assistance of the irritating young Garvie – or risk losing his job.
The Usual Suspects:
There aren’t a great deal of suspects in this one. There’s Chloe’s devastated ex-boyfriend Alex, who has dropped out of society and is now squatting in a drug house; a creepily inappropriate groundsman from Chloe’s school who seems to be nursing an unhealthy obsession with the young beauty; and an unknown boyfriend or admirer of Chloe, who may or may not drive a large black Porsche.
The Hunt for the Murderer/s:
This is where Running Girl really stands out from the pack. The reader gets to follow both Garvie and DI Singh as they separately go about their investigative business. Garvie struck me as a kind of Poirot-esque figure, who does a lot of sitting and thinking and remembering in order to pinpoint details that are out of place. DI Singh is more methodical, following his gut instincts, but working with a team whose members aren’t all committed to going where their leader takes them. There are red-herrings aplenty here, even when it seems like all the loose ends have been neatly tucked away. I did have a hunch about who the perpetrator/s might be very early on, and while this hunch turned out to be correct, the hunt was so twisty and complex that I didn’t feel let down in the slightest – just pleased with the high quality writing.
Five poison bottles for the forlorn flap of a running shoe with a busted
I found this mystery to be pretty darn absorbing, despite the fact that I didn’t particularly like Garvie Smith. From an adult’s perspective, he tends toward the “trumped up little git” category, so I was much more inclined to sympathise with the much-maligned DI Singh in wishing to deliver Garvie some mental slaps around the head. Even though I didn’t find Garvie overly likeable, he still makes a deeply engaging main character and his blunt and brash manner nicely complements the introverted Singh.
I enjoyed the references to Singh’s practice of Sikhism, not only because it’s nice to see a bit of racial diversity in books at any time (oh, and did I mention Garvie’s mother is from Barbados?), but also because the references to the various prayers and rituals that Singh engaged in had me curious to find out more about the Sikh lifestyle and beliefs.
Because the perspective alternates between Garvie and Singh, the reader gets the best of both worlds, with some of the story leaning toward the amateur sleuth style of mystery, and some toward the police procedural style. This went a long way to staving off any slackening of the pace and was a neat way to highlight some of the salient clues – even though Garvie always seems to be one step ahead in that regard.
If you’re looking for a tightly woven murder mystery rendered in quality narrative style that will really get your brain working, then may I recommend Running Girl to you in the strongest terms. There are some indicators that this might be the beginning of a series – the grudging respect growing between Singh and Garvie being just one – which would be wonderful in my opinion. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled.
Now, as I mentioned before, I will be submitting this one for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge:
You can check out my progress on that one here.
I’m also submitting it for my Title Fight Reading Challenge:
I think Running Girl fits nicely under category four – a book with something you might find in a boxing gym in the title.
Until next time,