Saturday, April 18, 2020

A Girl Called Justice by Elly Griffiths: Reading Room Review

Elly Griffiths has been a favorite author of mine for some years now, first with her Ruth Galloway series, then with her Stephens and Mesphisto (Magic Men) series, and recently with her stand-alones.  Now she has entered her brilliant writing talents into a new children's series, Justice Jones.  This first book, A Girl Called Justice, was wonderfully atmospheric and quite chilling, with even the temperatures inside the boarding school supporting the shivering mood.  Twelve-year-old Justice Jones is a character readers will fall in love with at once, as she is a girl whose mother has recently died, accounting for her placement in the boarding school, but a girl who tries to make the best of her situation.  She's no cry baby, our Justice.  She's highly intelligent and resourceful, and having grown up with a mother who wrote mystery books, Justice is always on high alert for a mystery.  She has certainly landed in the perfect atmosphere for a mystery at Highbury House Boarding School for the Daughters of Gentlefolk.  The school is located on the edges of the Romney Marsh area of southeast England, a remote, isolated setting.  

Justice Jones begins the school year at Highbury late into the first semester.  Her mother has died and her father, who is a barrister, in fact a QC, works long hours and feels he can't be there to care for Justice, so the boarding school is the solution.  As soon as Justice arrives, she learns that a maid has recently died at Highbury, and there are undertones of something being amiss, both with that death and ongoing activities.  While Justice is learning to adjust to this new atmosphere of groups and rules and making friends, investigating a suspicious death is an anchor that Justice can grab hold of that keeps her on the familiar ground of her mother's Leslie Light mystery series and her father's murder cases. 

Justice is a list maker, and as she explores the mystery surrounding the maid's death, she keeps a journal of clues and suspects and observations.  The journal is in keeping with the time period of the book being 1936.  There are, of course, no computers, no Google, and I like that Justice must dig for clues and do research from scratch, so to speak.  Being of a brave nature, Justice also does some late night sleuthing after lights out, sneaking along the many corridors of the old mansion and trying to avoid the creaky spots on stairs.  Throw in some secret messages and a haunted tower, and the suspense never loses its edge.  When a snowstorm cuts the school off from the outside world, it's clear that the maid's death was murder and that a dangerous person is desperate to stay undetected.  Justice isn't sure who she can trust, but she will have to confide in someone to solve the case and save lives.

One of Elly Griffiths' strengths as an author is her creation of great characters.  Justice is already another favorite character for me.  I've mentioned her intelligence, her bravery, and her resourcefulness, and her curiosity.  She is also compassionate and has a charming sense of humor.  I'm somewhat reminded of Flavia de Luce, but Justice seems better able to fit in and Justice's father is warmer and more in tune with his daughter's feelings and situation than Flavia's father is.  I was pleased that Justice wasn't abandoned by her father.  Justice's roommates are all from different backgrounds and have different personalities that I look forward to learning more about in subsequent books.  

I am absolutely delighted with this new series by Elly Griffiths.  It looks like another hit for her in a line of hits.  I'm so glad that she's writing this series, as I can share it with my ten-year-old granddaughter, who has enjoyed other young sleuth series.  I would recommend the series for ages 10-13, but I'm sure there will be plenty of adult fans, too.

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