The It Girl
by Ruth Ware
Gallery/Scout Press, trade paper, $18.99
Hannah Jones can’t believe she’s attending Oxford. Even more so, she can’t believe her roommate is April Clarke-Cliveden, the titular “it girl”—beautiful, wealthy, popular, and smart. And she considers Hannah her new college best friend.
Set between the present and 10 years prior, The It Girl unravels a murder that is not quite what it appears. Right from the beginning, we know that April is eventually killed and a creepy college porter is convicted of her murder. But when he dies in prison a decade later, the question of his possible innocence is raised.
Hannah finds herself tangled back in memories that might not have been as reliable as she once thought and now feels it’s her personal duty to investigate, as it was her testimony that sealed the porter’s fate.
The most suspenseful and captivating parts of the novel are the scenes set in the past when Hannah is first in college, making friends with her roommate, April, and the others in their orbit: Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily. The group feels the pressure of high academic expectations, but also enjoys the frivolity and thrill of college antics like strip poker. But sometimes their friendships experience fissures, as when April pranks members of the group: a ruse that makes Ryan flush his pot down the toilet, a sex doll in Hugh’s bed, and some that even more seriously impact people’s academic pursuits.
The details of April’s death are left till the end, but the possible suspects and motives are teased out as Hannah, 10 years later, returns to the past to try to solve what really happened. It is a pleasure to discover what the friends were hiding—and the possible reasons each one might have had for murdering April.
Ruth Ware also deftly and fully defines April, who feels far from the two-dimensionally drawn victims so often forgotten in murder mysteries. Ware does such a good job, the reader may find themselves hoping the murder was all a dream and that April will pop out from behind a medieval Oxford staircase after all those years, revealing to Hannah it was only a prank.
A review of this novel in hardcover first appeared in the print issue of Mystery Scene Magazine.