How Will I Know You? tells the story of the murder of Joy, a teen girl in a small town, from the perspectives of four people involved in the case: Susanne, Joy’s mother; Martin, a Black graduate student and Susanne’s TA who has been arrested for the crime; Harper, Joy’s best friend and potential eyewitness; and Tom, a rescue diver and son-in-law of the town’s police chief. As with any small town in a murder mystery, there are lots of secrets and hidden scandals among the people in Joy’s circle, and these all come to light as the truth behind Joy’s death is revealed.
The identity of the murderer wasn’t much of a surprise to me, so the best part of the book for me wasn’t so much the whodunnit angle as it was learning about the people in the town and the things they are now afraid will be revealed about their lives. Susanne’s part of the story fell a bit flat for me, and Martin’s part of the story was interesting, but it was Tom and Harper’s stories that really stood out for me. Tom struggles with his inability to impress his father-in-law and his fear that his wife sides with her parents over him. In some of my favourite scenes, Tom confronts her about telling her parents some really big news before coming to him. Harper’s story is just as compelling, as she tries to keep up with Joy’s rising popularity only to be rebuffed time and again. The memory of how Joy had treated her in the last few months colours her grief over Joy’s death, and her flashback scenes were some of the strongest in the book.
Treadway also explores the significance of racial bias in this book, particularly in Martin being arrested despite the evidence being circumstantial. The sheer number of race-based microaggressions in the story felt a bit heavy-handed at times, though not necessarily unrealistic. I particularly like the part where Martin’s artwork is questioned on the basis of its “authenticity” in representing “the Black experience.” It’s almost satirical, yet still something I can actually imagine happening at an art show or competition.
How Will I Know You? is a story practically made for TV. The murder itself is a catalyst that sets off webs of stories for an intriguing cast of characters, and an in-depth exploration of crime and scandal in a small town.
Thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.