Monday, April 5, 2021

REVIEW: In the Study with the Wrench: A Clue Mystery (book) by Diana Peterfreund

In the Study with the Wrench is the second YA Clue mystery by Diana Peterfreund. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


In the previous book, snow and flooding trapped several Blackbrook Academy students in Tudor House, a lovely old building with several secret passageways. The headmaster was murdered, and the murderer was eventually caught and arrested. 

Blackbrook Academy has somehow miraculously managed to remain open, despite massive flood damage and a bunch of students transferring out because their parents are understandably concerned about the recent murder. The school and its new headmaster are now entirely focused on moving past all of this. That means no trouble, no bad press, and no more students leaving.

Unfortunately, Blackbrook happens to have a lot of people with dark secrets, and Rusty Naylor, the head janitor, is one of them. His latest scheme gets him killed, and when his body is finally discovered the big questions are 1) Who killed him? and 2) Can Blackbrook's students convince administration that their standardized tests should at least be untimed?

The first book was better overall. This one took ages to really get going and was kind of a mess, although once I got to the last third it was hard to put down. It had a more noticeable humorous edge to it than the first, which I kind of liked. All the stressing about standardized tests in the midst of murder, Beth's life coach obsession, Vaughn and Oliver's identity swapping, a school counselor who was more interested in damage control than actual counseling, Orchid's stalker, a closed-mouthed new student named Rosa, and people's belongings mysteriously disappearing and reappearing. And then the relationship drama. There was so much going on in this book. So much.

A bit too much, honestly. You could take multiple characters, plop them into their own books, and probably produce at least two or three additional YA novels with the material crammed into this one. I was just thankful that not everyone's secret was as enormous and elaborate as Vaughn or even Orchid's. Beth's cringey life counselor emails were pretty normal by comparison, and Scarlett was just a control freak trying to figure out how to function now that her most useful connections had been severed.

This ends in what I consider to be a cliffhanger. A couple characters are supposedly dead and I'm 99% certain that at least one of them is actually still alive. I'd hoped to finish this book and then call it quits with this series, but an annoying part of me kind of wants to know how it all turns out. Unfortunately, it looks like I'll have to wait until October for that, and any desire I have to finish up the series (if that is indeed the last book) might evaporate before then. Will I even remember the three billion things that came up in the first two books?

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