The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson. Delacorte Press, 2022. 978059343115
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
What did you like about the book? In the tony town of Castle Cove, California, two girls live on opposite sides of the tracks. Alice is one of the “Mains”, the wealthy, wasteful, beautiful kids, although she was despondent enough last summer after being dumped by her boyfriend Steve to disappear for a week. Iris is a model student, living with her bartender mom in a dumpy apartment, desperate to earn money to get away from her abusive, alcoholic dad. Fate brings the girls together when Alice needs a tutor and shortly afterwards, another one of the Mains also vanishes. Coincidentally, both girls saw Brooke, who used to be Alice’s best friend and, now Steve’s girlfriend, the night before she went missing. Using quotes and tactics suggested by Alice’s favorite author, Agatha Christie, the two organize a search party to find Brooke, who shows up dead at the bottom of a cliff, with Steve’s arrest quickly following. Red herrings, a mysterious source, a bungling police department, disheveled but savvy lawyer, and an ambitious TV reporter all add to this spicy who-done-it. The story is told in alternating first-person narratives with plenty of epistolary elements, such as long text conversations, news reports, and a murder board. Snappy dialogue and a great finale (including a horse!) made this mash-up of Veronica Mars and Big Little Lies a quick read and a lot of fun. All characters cue as White.
Anything you didn’t like about it? The book stakes no claims to realism, but the plot does get remarkably far-fetched, especially as the girls break into houses and offices, meet with Steve’s attorney to share illegally obtained evidence, and uncover both secret identities and corruption in the police department. Of course, no one does a lick of homework; Castle Cove High School must have very liberal make-up and attendance policies.
To whom would you recommend this book? I liked that this story wrapped up at the end, but also left one parallel mystery unsolved, leaving things open for another installment. I would definitely recommend this to fans of Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder or The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis. A nice bonus will be the connection to Agatha Christie, which may prompt some readers to seek out those classics.
Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? YA, mystery if you genre-fy
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: June 29, 2022