Two lonely teenage girls in 1940s Washington, DC, discover they have a penchant for solving crimes—and an even greater desire to commit them—in the new mystery novel by Macavity Award-winning novelist John Copenhaver.
Philippa Watson, a good-natured yet troubled seventeen-year-old, has just moved to Washington, DC. She’s lonely until she meets Judy Peabody, a brilliant and tempestuous classmate. The girls become unlikely friends and fashion themselves as intellectuals, drawing the notice of Christine Martins, their dazzling English teacher, who enthralls them with her passion for literature and her love of noirish detective fiction.
When Philippa returns a novel Miss Martins has lent her, she interrupts a man grappling with her in the shadows. Frightened, Philippa flees, unsure who the man is or what she’s seen. Days later, her teacher returns to school altered: a dark shell of herself. On the heels of her teacher’s transformation, a classmate is found dead in the Anacostia River—murdered—the body stripped and defiled with a mysterious inscription.
As the girls follow the clues and wrestle with newfound feelings toward each other, they suspect that the killer is closer to their circle than they imagined—and that the greatest threat they face may not be lurking in the halls at school, or in the city streets, but creeping out from a murderous impulse of their own.
Set in late-1940s Washington, D.C., this tumultuous trilogy opener from Copenhaver (Dodging and Burning) sees polite Philippa Watson and fiery outcast Judy Peabody forge a friendship with encouragement from audacious English teacher Christine Martins, whom the teens idolize. When Philippa visits Miss Martins's apartment to return a book and finds the teacher entangled with a half-dressed man, she flees, embarrassed and uncertain whether she witnessed an attack. Judy dismisses Philippa's concerns as prudish, but the next day, Miss Martins resigns. Shortly thereafter, picnickers discover the corpse of Cleveland Closs, a surly student with whom Miss Martins clashed. Similarities to the unsolved murder of Judy's adoptive parents' nine-year-old biological daughter prompt the police to focus on their previous prime suspect, but Philippa and Judy think something else is afoot and investigate. Copenhaver's tale unfolds via breathless diary entries from both girls, purportedly strung together by an anonymous narrator in 1963. A profusion of devastating twists complements the pulp-noir tone and keeps readers on tenterhooks, and a tentative romance between Judy and Philippa adds depth. Megan Abbott fans, take note. Agent: Annie Bomke, Annie Bomke Literary.