I picked this book up at the Hot Key stand at YALC, purely because the card next to it said “this author also wrote Villanelle” and Villanelle (from Killing Eve TV series) is my favourite character. If it didn’t look such hard work and seem so likely to land me in prison, I would definitely want to be Villanelle when I grow up. In a move that is very unlike me, I have read it already.
I’m really not sure what I expected from this one, other than for it to be dark and witty, which it is. It is also a murder mystery set in a quiet seaside town told from the viewpoint of a very disturbing twelve year old. If you have seen Killing Eve, picture Villanelle at the age of 12, and that’s the voice we have here. It starts with the killer line:
“My parents got smushed to death in a boating accident when I was nine. don’t worry – I’m not that sad about it.”
Our nameless main character is a very dark child with a very blunt way of speaking and an obsession with death, murder and mysteries. She is creepy. She doesn’t sleep well, so is constantly exhausted and she drinks an alarming amount of coffee for a twelve year old. She also says, quite casually, that although she quite enjoys her school she thinks “it would be better if someone just burned the place to the ground”. Basically, she is a twelve year old me.
She lives with her Grandmother, who is a bit strange and never leaves the house, so each summer she is sent to stay with her Aunt and Uncle at their hotel in a quiet seaside village. I loved this setting. I adore the seaside, and the characters here made me laugh a lot. We have George Brain who has a literal soap box that he stands on to give speeches; Jean, a judgemental old woman who lives in the hotel and has something to say about everything; and Peter Queen, who keeps inviting kids to his house for tea and has an unhealthy obsession with this dead wife (the inside of his house is still giving me the creeps).
During her visit, the village is disrupted by a murder. The body is brought in from the sea. It is grim. The descriptions in this book are graphic and not for the faint-hearted. They rival any dark crime book I’ve read before, but they’re well balanced with the general humour of the book. Our main character decides to solve the murder, because what else would you do with your summer holiday?
She befriends Miles, a boy her age who is staying at the hotel with his overbearing mother, and he decides to help her. Miles is creepy. You can totally picture him growing up to be a serial killer. The two have some strange adventures on the island, as well as playing a weird game called “murder” where Miles pretends to be the murderer and the main girl plays dead. He becomes increasingly aggressive and weird as the story goes on.
Monsters is a real hidden gem of a book. I loved the setting, I adored the main character’s voice, and the murder mystery was brilliant.