The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

If Sherlock were a back-chatting 16 year old boy… my review of ‘Running Girl’ by Simon Mason

on February 12, 2016

Running-Girl-front-cover-

Running Girl. Simon Mason. David Fickling Books. June 2015.

Meet Garvie Smith. Highest IQ ever recorded at Marsh Academy. Lowest ever grades. What’s the point? Life sucks. Nothing surprising ever happens.Until Chloe Dow’s body is pulled from a pond. His ex-girlfriend.DI Singh is already on the case. Ambitious, uptight, methodical – he’s determined to solve the mystery – and get promoted. He doesn’t need any ‘assistance’ from notorious slacker, Smith. Or does he?


This book has been sitting on my shelf since August, waiting to be read, and I’m sorry I didn’t pick it up sooner. Running Girl is a YA crime/detective novel with one extremely funky front cover, and it just so happens that what’s inside that cover is pretty flipping marvellous too.

The story follows Garvie Smith, an extremely lazy 16 year-old-boy who is bored witless by everyday life. Garvie, to the despair of his mother, is constantly skiving school and neglecting revision, getting appalling grades (despite the fact that his IQ is off the charts), and can never seem to muster up much enthusiasm for anything at all.

giphy (5)

Source: Giphy

When Garvie’s ex-girlfriend Chloe Dow is found dead, her body pulled out of a lake, it’s like a switch gets flipped inside Garvie’s head… all of a sudden he’s finally interested in something, engaged, alert, and determined to find out what happened to Chloe.

Garvie starts his own murder investigation, much to the chagrin of DI Singh who’s heading up the official investigation and struggling to get anywhere with it himself. Despite his slacker status, Garvie quickly manages to prove he knows what he’s doing, constantly placing one step ahead of the police.

I enjoy a murder mystery, but I often find myself bored if an author goes into too much detail about the domestic woes of the detective on the case. I was so pleasantly surprised this didn’t happen with Running Girl – I loved reading about Garvie and Singh, and if anything I’d have welcomed a little more backstory about both of them, particularly Singh, who we didn’t get to see much of outside of the investigation. Running Girl is the first novel in what will be a series of detective novels following these characters, so I’m looking forward to getting to know them both better in the next book.

Garvie was an interesting character, and in a lot of ways, he reminded me of Sherlock Holmes (particularly the version portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC show), although he had plenty of his own quirks that made him Garvie though and through. Like Sherlock, he comes across as the kind of person whose mind functions on a wildly different plane than the rest of us; he has a photographic memory, and he’s always registering tiny but crucial details the average person wouldn’t even notice. Outwardly, he doesn’t express much emotion (unless boredom counts an emotion…), but you can tell he is fascinated, and almost excited by crime. He’s strangely detached from the murder he’s investigating (even though he once had a relationship with the girl who’s been murdered) and it seems like the excitement of trying to work out WHO and WHY overrides any grief he may be experiencing over Chloe’s death.

giphy (6)

Source: Giphy

Garvie is prone to doing exactly the opposite of what he’s told – his mum threatens to move them both back to Barbados (where she was born) if he doesn’t pull his act together at school, yet even with the impending threat of moving away (which he really doesn’t want to happen), he still continues to skip class. Because there are far more interesting things going on outside the classroom… and how can he resist if a new lead happens to present itself to him when he’s supposed to be in a mundane old Geography lesson?

In the same authority-rejecting vein, despite repeated warnings from Singh to back away from the investigation and let the police do their job, Garvie casually flouts this advice, and carries on looking for clues anyway, convinced he’s doing a better job than Singh himself. Ignoring Singh’s advice often happens with very comic timing – a chapter ends with “Don’t go back there, you promise?” “I promise!”, but at the beginning of the next chapter… guess where Garvie is?!

The back-and-forth between Singh and Garvie never failed to amuse me, and I loved the development of their relationship as Singh begrudgingly began to care about Garvie and want to keep him out of harm’s way.

snippy

The contrast between the characters brought a lot of humour to their scenes – Singh being uptight and reserved, and Garvie brazenly cheeky and so laid back he’s practically horizontal:

dontbesoftwereonthefifthfloor

Something unique and entertaining I particularly enjoyed in this novel was that in any situation where someone’s being questioned (and I’m not just talking about within the investigation, but about instances such as Garvie’s mum demanding to know where he’s been and why he felt that was more important than going to class…) the scene is written in the style of (satirical) police interview notes:

interview

I really enjoyed the murder mystery plot of this novel, and I was satisfied with the ending as I hadn’t managed to work out who the murderer was (it wasn’t at all predictable for me.) I loved the fact that Simon Mason led me in so many different directions. There were plenty of red herrings, shady characters, and situations that made certain people look very guilty indeed. The pacing in this novel was excellent too; the short chapters and taunting cliff-hangers had me flipping the pages, eager to find out what would happen next.

The chapters following Garvie’s rogue investigation were the most breathless, because he was constantly following suspects (aka potential murderers) and putting himself into dangerous situations (whilst Singh would be off somewhere else, playing it somewhat more safely – sitting at his desk looking at documents, for example)… I can’t count the number of times I sat there with my head in my hands internally screaming at Garvie: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU CRAZY BOY? DO YOU HAVE A DEATH WISH?!…”

This novel was highly entertaining, with a fantastically witty and whimsical style of narration, an extremely dynamic protagonist, and twists and turns aplenty. I can’t wait to see Garvie and Singh reluctantly team up again in the next book!

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16 responses to “If Sherlock were a back-chatting 16 year old boy… my review of ‘Running Girl’ by Simon Mason

  1. Nika says:

    Great review! And of course I had to add this book to my tbr pile.

  2. sublimereads says:

    “so laid back he’s practically horizontal”
    I died at this line. I’ll have to use it sometime XD
    Great review!

    • mudandstars says:

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed the review! I do love that line, I have seen it used quite a lot, but have no idea where it comes from originally! It honestly describes this character perfectly haha 🙂

  3. I’m definitely adding this book to my TBR pile it sounds so interesting! Fab review!

  4. belleinfini says:

    This sounds awesome! Great review! 😀

  5. rakioddbooks says:

    Awesome review! This sounds like a great book!

  6. Annelise Lestrange says:

    I. NEED. THIS. BOOK. IN. MY. LIFE. NOW. It sounds perfect!!!! Please, tell me there is ~something~ in the air between the protagonists, haha!

    • mudandstars says:

      Hahaha, aww sorry to disappoint you, but there actually isn’t in this case – it’s more like father/son kind of relationship (or at least mentor/mentee) – but kind of a reluctant one as Garvie just annoys the crap out of Singh to begin with haha. It was still a great book though 😀

      • Annelise Lestrange says:

        Aww, that’s okay, I can live with that 😂 It still sounds like a kick-ass book anyway! 😍 I love pestering characters! 💙

  7. […] you Mud & Stars for tagging me in this awesome book tag! After going through the books I’ve read, I’m […]

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