Review: Running Girl by Simon Mason

Running Girunning-girlrl by Simon Mason
Crime, Mystery
Published by: David Fickling Books
Pages: 443
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★.5
Where to Find: Goodreads | Amazon

‘Running Girl’ is a mystery, the first in a series. Garvie Smith is the boy genius, who is the 21st Century male counterpart to Nancy Drew, and has the knowledge and expertise to solve it.
I watch, and occasionally read, a lot of detective crime dramas, so I was the perfect target audience for a book like this. It was jam packed with clues and plot twists that had me second guessing until the final reveal. However, my education of crime drama plots helped me make a wild guess to the murderer in the first fifty pages, which turned out to be correct in the end. If Inspector Morse has taught me anything, it’s: always expect the unexpected, and everything is relevant.

The book focuses on the murder of Chloe Dow, a girl who’s personality is never properly described, only stereotyped by her photograph. Already, it feels like I’m reading a Colin Dexter, where women are just seen as a pair of nice legs. She’s mixed up with a lot of people, I mean, men. Garvie Smith was her ex-boyfriend and has the connections to find out what truly happened to Chloe, acting like an insolent Sherlock Holmes.
Despite being told not to time and time again, Garvie keeps interferring, and never tells the police everything he knows right away, like he wants to be the most in-the-know and lords it over everyone.
I really enjoyed how there were so many trails to the plot. We followed them until they reached a dead end, and then discovered another quintessential clue that meant all hope was not lost. For a second, I doubted my preliminary guess. But, it was the classic fault with crime fiction. If there’s still 100 pages to go, it’s unlikely the killer has really been captured.

Garvie’s world had a very interesting mix of personalities. His friends were stoners and drop outs. The only intelligent teenager in the book was Garvie himself. Abdul the taxi driver was kind of like Sherlock’s homeless network.
What was interesting about ‘Running Girl’ was how realistic it was. We weren’t supposed to suspend our disbelief as Garvie broke into a house,  or used a fake ID to get into a casino. The police were adamant he wasn’t to get involved, and threatened action if he did. His mother was constantly asking where he was going and telling him off. That was good.

The one character I had a real problem with was the protagonist! It wasn’t easy to like him: he was lazy and somewhat arrogant. It felt like he was just using his friends to solve the mystery, without explaining to anyone what was really going on. Nancy Drew is quirky and independent. I just wasn’t getting the same ‘likeable town hero’ vibe from Garvie. Luckily, the book was written in 3rd person, so there was some variety.

Overall, ‘Running Girl’ was a thrilling mystery. I guessed, second guessed and quadruple guessed until my premonition was approved. I always think crime is one of the hardest genres to write, because it has to be original and almost involve the audience in a way other genres don’t. I think the key is make it simple. Have a stock character, with a cliched motive, and then throw in a bunch of twists and loopholes with other, more original characters, before coming back to the actual killer.

I’d give this book 3.5 stars, because I enjoyed the mystery, but not so much the characters. If you like the genre, I’d recommend the book, but if you’re expecting the same level of cutesy girl-power mystery solving Nancy Drew exerts, you’re in for a very different type of kid detective.

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