By Simon Mason
Published by David Fickling
ISBN 978 0 8575 6058 2
There seem to be a lot of new school-aged amateur detectives in young adult fiction recently, so when another pops up, it might be seen as one too many. But Simon Mason's Garvie Smith will surprise you because he's a complete original.
Mason has created a very strong contender for Teen Detective of the Year, and much of the excellent writing in Running Girl is taken up with establishing Garvie as a character we want to get to know. Mason, who has written both adult and children's novels, knows how to get readers hooked on a mystery. You create a strong character and turn them loose on solving a crime. The rest almost takes care of itself.
This first Garvie Smith mystery is a page-turning crime novel with no holds barred. Mason might be writing for young adults, but he uses all the ingredients of the classic adult detective story, and truly has created a character who, soon, should prove worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe or Inspector Maigret.
So who is Garvie? This new kid on the young adult block is a natural maths genius with an IQ at the top of the scale. He is the cleverest student at Marsh Academy - when he can be bothered to attend. But he's also bone-idle and a slacker with a set of dodgy friends that your mum wouldn't approve of.
But Garvie is way too cool to spend time sitting in boring lessons at school. He drives his hard-working single mum to distraction; Mrs Smith is distraught at the way her under-performing son is wasting his brain and his time, and is always on his case to get his head down and study instead of lying in bed until something interests him enough to get up.
That something this time is Chloe Dow, the running girl in the title. Blonde and beautiful, she has everyone falling at her feet. She and Garvie dated briefly, but when Chloe goes missing and is found drowned in a local pond, Garvie leaps into action. As her ex-boyfriend, he owes it to her to track down her killer.
The whodunnit plot is intricate and well presented right up to the final unravelling. Mason never condescends to his teenage readership or cuts corners, and there is a lot of excellent character work, as well as a plot that holds up, and intrigues until the final page.
Mason has written a winner with this quality thriller for older teens. Garvie is a young, modern, relatable detective, and he is most welcome.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com