Garvie Smith is bored, lazy, taciturn, and lacking in ambition. He’s also ridiculously clever, rather good-looking, and popular with his classmates. In the run up to his GCSEs his two main hobbies of lying on his bed staring at the ceiling and hanging out in the park with his mates are interrupted by the murder of Chloe Dow. Chloe and Garvie went to school together and even went out for a while, so the tragedy is very close to home. Garvie’s sharp brain is stimulated into action as he tries to unravel the clues and get to the truth behind her murder.
I really enjoyed all the characters in Running Girl. Garvie has a touch of the Sherlock about him; they’re flawed but brilliant, observant, and have a capacity for deep thought. Garvie is fascinated by imaginary numbers and spends a fair amount of time dwelling on their properties. I’m still trying to get my head around them, but they help Garvie make sense of the trail of evidence he discovers. He’s got a good group of mates to help him out, even if his mum does think they’re a bad influence. I dragged my mind back more years than I care to mention and to me they seemed pretty normal for the most part; drinking and smoking up the rec is nothing new!
Garvie’s mum is lovely though, she just wants the best for him. It’s obvious that she’s worried about him and is considering relocating to Barbados, where she grew up, to keep him out of trouble. There’s a very touching moment near the end of the book when Garvie finally understands how his mum’s been feeling. The other adult Garvie interacts with the most is D.I. Singh, the lead detective on the Dow case. Singh is a bit uptight and very focused, qualities that don’t make you many friends. He is dedicated to doing the best job he can, which does not include babysitting a sixteen-year-old amateur detective getting under his feet and into sticky situations. Still, despite a rocky start I think there’s some grudging and mutual respect between Garvie and D.I. Singh by the end.
The whodunit aspect is very good and a bit tricky to work out. Although Garvie identifies clues early on, the significance of them is slower to emerge. There are a few dead ends and red herrings to keep us on our toes as well as some properly creepy characters and dangerous situations for Garvie to deal with. The murder is horribly real too, I don’t mean gruesome but rather it is something that could happen in any community – there’s nothing outlandish or sensationalist added.
I think Running Girl is an excellent book. Garvie Smith is wonderful, even if his world-weariness made me want to weep at times. Such ennui at such a young age seems shocking from my oh so very grown-up perspective, but after a little soul-searching I’m reminded of how impossible it is to be sixteen. I desperately hope there’s another Garvie Smith mystery in the pipeline because I want to know what he does next.
Running Girl is available now in Hardback from David Fickling Books. Many thanks to Random House Kids for my eBook copy, via Netgalley.