Running Girl by Simon Mason
|Running Girl by Simon Mason
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy
|Summary: Fabulous, intricate whodunnit featuring an uptight Sikh detective and an underperforming genius schoolboy. We loved it!
|Date: January 2014
|Publisher: David Fickling
Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2014
When Garvie Smith's ex-girlfriend Chloe is murdered, Garvie determines to find out who killed her and why. You can understand this, right? But Inspector Singh doesn't: this is a serious murder enquiry and it's being obstructed by a sixteen-year-old boy who keeps putting himself into harm's way. Garvie's mother doesn't: exams are coming up and while her son has the highest IQ ever recorded by a boy at Marsh Academy, he also has the lowest results. But, even though Inspector Singh threatens charges of obstructing the police and Mrs Smith threatens a move to Barbados, Garvie just can't let it go...
Before I start gushing - and I am going to gush - I should probably point out that Garvie and his friends do a lot of smoking - both tobacco and weed - and a lot of drinking. This is presented without much judgement - the parents and Inspector Singh disapprove but the kids don't really take much notice. Some parents and teachers may find this worrying. Personally, I don't. Although it is easy to identify and sympathise with Garvie, we're never under any illusion that he is wasting a great brain and a huge potential by hanging around smoking instead of doing his schoolwork. And if you read between the lines, you can see that dealer Alex's breakdown and paranoia after his break-up with Chloe was probably contributed to by his weed habit. I saw it as a true picture of a group of friends and truth is vital when you're writing for da kidz.
Duty-made point out of the way, I loved, loved, loved Running Girl. The whodunnit plot is incredibly intricate and beautifully worked out with clues and the application of logic. It's full of twists and turns and it is truly gripping. Garvie often mocks Inspector Singh, a la Sherlock Holmes, by calling him Singh of the Yard. But Singh isn't a bumbler. He is cautious but highly intelligent and his policework is really only undermined by the people working for him, who don't trust his instinct because he is stiff and standoffish. Garvie, the boy genius, can see patterns and clues that other people can't, through his intellect and observation, just like Holmes, but it's Singh who painstakingly assembles the evidence.
Aside from the plot, there is a tremendously sympathetic portrait of a boy who is much brighter than his peers and bored, not only by school, but by life in general, and his relationship with his loud, bossy, worried, and above all, loving mother. Mrs Smith breaks down at one point, so distraught is she at the way her son's life is going, and I defy any reader not to weep when the realisation of the scale of the worry he is causing his mother hits Garvie like a club to the head. The supporting cast is huge and fully-realised. I fell particularly in love with Abdul, the shy cab driver with a surprising core of courage and loyalty.
Truly, I loved this story. It has an intricate, clever plot, two fantastic central characters, sparkling dialogue and an easy style that wears its quality lightly. Running Girl comes highly - highly - recommended by me.
If you like crime novels, then you might also enjoy Killing Rachel: The Murder Notebooks by Anne Cassidy or Teacher's Dead by Benjamin Zephaniah.
You can read more book reviews or buy Running Girl by Simon Mason at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Running Girl by Simon Mason at Amazon.com.
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