Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas, published in 2013
It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off on a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations.
As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer, she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.
As she awaits the judge’s decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine…
I’m now realizing how difficult it is to review a novel in the mystery genre. How can I adequately share the highs and lows of a book without spoiling so much that when you, the reader, finally dive in yourself, the story remains original and exciting? I want to say this was so shocking I think my heart stopped long enough for me to be declared legally dead, this, this, THIS EXACT MOMENT and I want to say but omg can I JUST about when HE SAID THIS TO HER??? But no, I can’t, right? Because then you’ll start guessing about the whodunit. If and when you crack the book open yourself, all the intrigue the author worked so hard to build is suddenly tainted by me. A book blogger who only wanted to hype you up.
My rambles aside, I do hope you hit the comments after you read up on this review and let me know how YOU like to see mystery books reviewed. Less/more spoilers? Super vague, just enough to know if the book is worth your time or details that lead you right up to the big reveal … and then have you wondering enough to run to your nearest book dealer? I want to make sure these reviews are helpful, not hurtful, in your book quest, so drop a few sentences below!
Abigail Haas did something magic with Dangerous Girls. I’ll be candid off the bat and say this is my second time reading the book, so I knew the whodunit and why the crime was committed. This meant my second reading was completely different from the first — and the book gained this whole other dimension. Instead of looking for clues to find the killer, I looked *at* clues I totally missed the first time around. The best part? Even KNOWING who did it, I could see how convincing other theories were. Haas constructs several believable options as the killer, so the reader can explore different theories.
The story focuses on Anna Chevalier. During her senior year spring break, she goes to Aruba with her best friend Elise, boyfriend Tate, and other close friends: AK, Melanie, Chelsea, Lamar, and Max. (If it weren’t for the murder part, I would be v jealous). They party it up for five days, and then Elise is found dead in their house, her balcony door smashed in and a bloody knife at her side. The group of teens is brought to the police precinct where they are interrogated all night (not okay!!) until a judge arrives. Now, apparently in Aruba judges lead investigations (you learn something everyday), and the judge in charge here is the ~infamous~ Klaus Dekker (known for his vendettas, ooh, that sounds promising). Dekker immediately determines the break-in was staged and one of the seven teens must have murdered Elise.
Anna and her boyfriend Tate become the centerpiece of the investigation (the rest of the crew were on a dive that day) and Haas focuses the story on the role of media interpretation and socioeconomic advantage. AKA Tate is hella rich so he gets a squad of lawyers and Anna will have to watch her father work himself to the bone to try and get her some representation. Meanwhile the media will just tear these two lovebirds apart because guilty until proven innocent amirite?
The story is told in a series of clips (my best way of describing them). Not quite chapters but scenes from Anna’s life, revolving around her relationships with Elise and Tate. We start off with the teens finding Elise dead, but then go back in time to when Anna met Elise, and then snap forwards to the trial, then back a little to Anna awaiting trial, then back further to Anna getting to know Elise. The series of flash-forwards and flashbacks is not jarring: each scene leads into the next. Perhaps Anna recounts the time she told Elise about her mother’s cancer, then the next clip features her at trial, on the stand testifying about her emotional distress due to her mother’s cancer. It’s a cool way to learn about Anna, Elise, and Tate, especially because we only find out information as it becomes “relevant” to the case, adding to the intrigue in the book.
Anna is in jail for most of the book (if you consider time linear, which technically this book does not). She is in jail leading up to the trial—about five months—and she’s in jail during the trial. If you thought I forgot about #30daysofHumanRightsBPR, I did not! The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that we have the right to trial. Once Anna is formally charged for Elise’s murder, she is brought before an impartial judge (thank goodness for that) and tried. Sadly, Judge Dekker is the prosecuting attorney so … expect a lot of bias on that side. I really, really liked this aspect of the book because … I haven’t read a lot of mystery books that bring a suspect to court? I’m not saying that aren’t any/many, just that I haven’t read any except this one. And it was a great ride. Do I think just listening to a suspect on the stand or watching them stew in a prison could get boring? Definitely. Which is why Haas’ flashback feature is so great.
Standout features of this book include the flashback and flash-forward features. (Is it technically flash-forward? I think present day in this book is considered the trial… And the book ends after the verdict. We don’t go any further in the future than that.) Another standout is the relationship between Elise and Anna. Those two girls made me sob. Anna went through a lot with her mother’s cancer, and her father working long hours to keep his business competitive. Haas’ went far to show the way female friendship works: two girls will really rely on each other in times of need, and create each others’ identities just from spending so much time together. A third standout is just the craziness of media: how the media portrays people to fit a stereotype or expectation. Haas did a wonderful job of showing the way even police will use the media to their advantage. And a last standout? The ending. The freaking ending. I stopped breathing for a full minute.
Four and a half crowns because I’m so strict when it comes to five crowns. If you like mysteries, I highly recommend this book. It’s one of the best mystery novels I’ve ever read.
Next Chooseday, what to read? I’m changing things up this week. Instead of picking the book, you pick the genre! As always, comment your vote below and don’t forget to answer the question for the post.
How do you like to see mystery books reviewed?
📷 = @shaniasquires