Spies & Prejudice
Girl detectives have always been a big thing in the reading world. From Nancy Drew to the more recent Flavia de Luce, we can’t seem to get enough of youthful sleuths. This novel channels Veronica Mars a bit, combining that character very gently with Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to deliver a fun, entertaining mystery.
Strawberry (Berry) Fields, (yes, her parents went there) the daughter of a gumshoe who apparently specializes in divorce/breakups, has been working for her father since her mother’s death several years earlier. It is her conviction (and her dad’s) that adults never see children or teens, making her the perfect investigator. Her best friend, Mary Chris Moss (pronounce it all together and you get the reference to her Christmas birth) is a genius at designing spy gizmos for her, such as giant tortoiseshell glasses which contain a camera. Not the best fashion look for the modern teen but ideal for a girl looking to get a picture of man involved in infidelity.
The girls are on a stakeout at popular local restaurant Sconehenge when two incredibly hot guys walk in. Berry just wants to get the shot of the philanderer sitting at the next booth but her plans are very nearly derailed when the unexpected happens – the guys join them! Fortunately, Berry is made of stern stuff. Years of watching handsome, charming men break the hearts of the women who love them has made her immune to heartthrobs like Tanner Halston. She blows him off and follows her mark to the parking lot. It is while she is getting the money shot of the no good cheater kissing his new love that she gets the shock of her life.
Her best friend’s dad is in that lot, meeting with a woman who is most definitely not his wife. This is enough to send Berry’s heart plunging to her toes but what she sees next stops it. The two aren’t having a romantic rendezvous; they are dealing with paper work regarding her dead mother’s final project. Feeling every unresolved issue she ever had regarding her mother’s mysterious plunge over a cliff rises within her, and Berry determines to find out just why two people are meeting in a public parking spot to discuss events close to a decade old.
The premise of this story (combined with the overly cutesy names utilized by some characters) may seem a bit ridiculous at first. Those not used to girl detective tales might have trouble with teens dealing with corporate espionage, creating – and utilizing- high tech surveillance equipment and using homecoming as a cover up for a bit of breaking and entering. However, the author doesn’t try to convince us of the realistic nature of her tale. Instead, she utilizes gentle, sometimes zany, humor and excellent pacing to create a quick light read that deals with some serious subjects while never getting too caught up in its own importance. The aloof mysterious Tanner makes a nice foil for the hard hitting (literally), somewhat embittered, and disillusioned by her work Berry. It helps that the author uses her P&P references sparingly, not overwhelming us with comparisons to Darcy and Elizabeth but hinting at them instead.
If you are a fan of girl detectives and are looking for a read that is light yet engrossing, I am happy to recommend this book. And if you are a fan of Veronica Mars I double that recommendation. Fans of the series will find a lot to love in this original yet mildly familiar tale.