Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Ok, I confess: I’ve never been a big fan of the movie Clue. It took the smart, suspenseful, iconic game of my childhood and turned it into a silly farce, disregarding the beautiful conventions of the color-coded characters, and making the measured, thoughtful play a frantic slapstick comedy. Clue (originally called Cluedo in Britain) is about mystery and deduction and the Golden Age of British country house mysteries. Well, Diana Peterfreund has restored my faith in the franchise, and channeled a bit of classic Christopher Pike in the mix! Her new release In the Hall with the Knife: A Clue Mystery, the first novel from the Clue franchise (Hasbro and IDW introduced comic book versions in 2017 and 2019), reimagines the characters and game play in a contemporary New England boarding school. Six students are stranded in a spooky Victorian mansion-turned-dorm when their remote, coastal village is besieged by a freak winter ice storm. The campus is flooded, power, phones, and internet are down—and somebody has it in for Headmaster Boddy, the school’s beloved principal.
Is it blue-haired Beth “Peacock” Picach, the school’s perpetually angry tennis star? Or maybe brooding townie Vaughn Green? What about the school’s “power couple,” ambitious geniuses Scarlett Mistry and Phineas Plum? New kid Mustard, just transferred in from a military academy? Even sweet, bookish Orchid McKee has her secrets… and Peterfreund slowly doles them out, keeping the pacing taut and the plot clipping along until the Big Reveal.
Like the classic gameplay, each character takes a turn, in alternating, third person point-of-view chapters. Like the game, they all suspect each other, pointing their fingers as the story goes on. Rooms are explored, secret passages revealed, familiar weapons appear in characters’ hands… and the ultimate culprit is finally exposed. Peterfreund gives the reader enough clues to play along and solve the mystery with (or slightly before) the characters. And just like the game itself, the worldbuilding, scene setting, and backstory leave you wishing for more of this world and its secrets.
Less Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None than Christopher Pike’s Chain Letter and Slumber Party, this Young Adult book will appeal most to teens looking for a great suspense story about kids trapped with a murderer, relying on their own wits while battling the elements and their own dark secrets.
First of a new series and arriving for the game’s 70th anniversary, In the Hall with the Knife leaves plenty of room open for Peterfreund’s next Clue tie-in, but will these characters be returning? Or will she reimagine yet another Clue gang, in an all-new setting? Stay tuned for Book 2 (no title revealed yet), coming next October, to find out! New from Abrams Books, In the Hall with the Knife is available now here at Amazon.