Homage to the mistress of crime: ‘The Agathas’ by Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson
May 23, 2022
Alice and Iris are teenagers who inhabit different worlds, despite both being students at Castle Cove High School. Iris comes from a struggling single mother family and is seemingly invisible to Alice’s crowd, nicknamed the ‘Main Kids’ by Iris’ crowd (the ‘Zoners’, who include punks, nerds, hippies and dance team.) The Mains are the kids from wealthy backgrounds. ‘Glossy and full of health and money, they ooze easy life.’
When Alice’s erstwhile best friend Brooke disappears, the community is in uproar. Brooke had been dating Alice’s ex-boyfriend and things had become messy. So messy, in fact, that when Steve left Alice for Brooke last summer, Alice had disappeared for five days.
Brooke’s disappearance is being treated by the local police as ‘copycat’ – until her body is found at the base of cliffs on the edge of town. Steve, the boyfriend, is arrested for her murder.
Neither Alice nor Iris believe that Steve is guilty. They are thrown together as they begin to put pieces of the mystery together, guided by Alice’s collection of the complete works of Agatha Christie.
This novel will appeal to young adult readers of mystery and crime fiction. There are amusing commentaries on high school cliques and social stratifications that I’m sure will resonate with readers (of any age) who can recall their own high school experiences. More contemporary references to the impact of social media and local gossip will also be familiar, especially the way social media invites everyone to weigh in with their uninformed views and personal agendas.
While the story is mostly light-hearted, it has some darker themes: family violence is one; the tendency of adults to patronise youngsters and discount girls’ abilities another.
Something that hurts, to be honest. I mean, we live with it every day. In class, on the street, everywhere. Teachers not calling on you but calling on boys. Cluck-clucking at our clothes and makeup. The eyes of men when I just want to buy a stupid cup of coffee at Dotty’s Doughnuts. That cop at the police station, Thompson.
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In the end, under all the mystery and drama, the story is one about friendship, especially how, if people can look beyond their assumptions and prejudices, true friendship can develop.
And the pithy quotes from Mistress of Crime, Agatha Christie, are exactly on point.
A fun ‘whodunit?’ for young adult readers, with food for thought throughout.
The Agathas is published by Harper Collins in May 2022. My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.