(2021) Alexandra Weis, Vesuvian Books, £18.99 / US$19.95, hrdbk, 248pp, ISBN 978-1-645-48075-4
Lindsey Gillet is missing. And she's not the first girl at Waverly prep to vanish without a trace. To help cope with the tragedy, history teacher, Aubrey LaRoux organises a small pupil investigation team. But when members start turning up dead across campus, Aubrey suspects – no shit Sherlock – that there's more going on than anyone's prepared to admit. The murdered students all have something common with Lindsey. They shared a secret. And what they uncovered could threaten the future. At Waverly Prep, someone wants to keep the past buried along with anyone who gets in their way.
Have You Seen Me is the first in a new series by Alexandra Weis whose previous books include the four-part 'Blackwell' series, co-written with Lucas Astor. In these books, Blackwell is the inspiration for Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray. Weis is also the co-author with Astor again of the young adult St. Benedict series, and she is also the author of many standalone titles.
To start with, praise has to go to Vesuvian Books for putting together an attractive hardback, the novel itself consisting of 30 chapters, plus a prologue and an epilogue which fairly rattles along.
Weis weaves a story involving the return of Audrey LaRoux to elite boarding school, Waverly Preparatory School which wasn’t exactly a happy place for her in her student days as she was a black scholarship student, on the receiving end of constant bullying by spoiled Marjorie Reynolds, but then Marjorie disappeared and Audrey was one of the suspects even though a body is never found. Now ten years later when she has returned as a history teacher, another student – Lindsey - has disappeared, one with a striking resemblance to Marjorie, and no wonder because they are half-sisters. Headmistress, Sara Probst believes that both girls have simply run away, possibly swallowed up by the nearby bayou, but some of the students aren’t so sure. Is it merely coincidence that Audrey has returned as another girl goes missing, or is she somehow involved? Certainly some of the students make that connection, but Lindsey isn’t going to the first student to disappear.
Weis has successfully pulled together all of the key elements of a young adult mystery thriller/horror novel by creating a raft of well-rounded characters from Audrey herself to the students she lets into her life by offering them support in these difficult times. The Scooby Gang that forms around her are a quirky, well-drawn privileged bunch who were friends with Lindsey and knew she was investigating her half-sister’s disappearance all those years ago, but they also have their own motives for trying to solve the disappearances, and then the murders that occur. What could those motives be? Are they trying to avoid being potential victims or setting up other victims? Other memorable characters are the pretty dreadful Headmistress trying to maintain the reputation of the school and the hunky local sheriff who offers a hint of possible romance.
Characters aside, Weis combines key components of a good murder mystery such as a creepy location with a secret past, with heavy doses of tension and atmosphere and a high body count due to some pretty inventive deaths as well as several clues and red herrings to make the reader think they have solved the crime, although there is only one way to find out, by reading to the end which sets things up nicely for a sequel. Recommended.
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