The Girl Is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
I don’t know what it is about the era, but all the recent World War II-set YA novels I’ve read (Ten Cents a Dance, Flygirl, and although it’s actually post-WWII, What I Saw and How I Lied) have been superb, especially when it comes to atmosphere. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that The Girl Is Murder is likewise a standout novel, with a flawed but strong-willed narrator, a sufficiently constructed mystery rooted in the time period, class and a bit of racial tension, and, of course, a great sense of atmosphere.
Although her father doesn’t want her to know, Iris Anderson knows that they are in rather precarious financial straits. Her father’s PI business is struggling, in large part because of his struggles with a recent disability (he lost his foot at Pearl Harbor). Iris knows that she is capable of assisting her father, but he refuses to allow her to help.
When a boy who attends Iris’s new school disappears, Iris thinks this is her chance to significantly contribute to her father’s investigation. Iris transferred from an exclusive private school to a public high school, and as a new student, no one knows anything about her personal life. On her first day of school, Iris met a girl who was part of the missing boy’s old crowd. Why not make the most of this acquaintance, Iris reasons? But is solving the case worth all the lies she must tell her new friends and her father in order to solve the case?
I can’t put my finger on what kept me from loving The Girl Is Murder instead of just liking it, as I do now. The atmosphere in the book is fabulous, full of slang and smoking, and Haines vividly brings WWII-era New York City to life. Iris, in many ways, is reminiscent of Ruby from Ten Cents a Dance, and not just because of their family’s financial straits and initial willingness to fudge certain aspects their identities; I think it’s their determination, and their respective authors’ ability to keep them sympathetic. And yet… Despite containing many of the elements I’m drawn to, The Girl Is Murder just didn’t have that extra something to make it a book that I loved.
One nitpick: Iris is a high school sophomore, but later in the book she mentions having four more years of high school to complete.
Book source: public library.