You Owe Me a Murder is so incredibly good. I couldn’t put it down! A contemporary YA take on Strangers on a Train, the book tells the story of Kim, a seventeen year old girl, who gets pulled into a murder plot when she meets Nicki, a charismatic young woman, in the airport on her way to a school trip. Kim is struggling to get over a recent breakup, and unthinkingly tells Nicki that she wishes her ex-boyfriend were dead. It turns out that Nicki wishes her mother was dead as well, and so, at some point on the flight while getting drunk on stolen liquor, Kim agrees to Nicki’s joking suggestion that they murder each other’s intended targets. Kim thinks it must have been just a drunken joke, until her ex-boyfriend dies in a suspicious accident, and Nicki reappears to remind Kim of her end of the bargain.
You Owe Me a Murder is an exciting twisty thriller, but more than that it’s a compelling character-centric story. Kim is such an awesome heroine — relatable but also with a fantastic character arc from terror to sheer kickassery. Nicki is coldly manipulative, and makes for a believably formidable villain. There’s also a subplot about Alex, a cute boy who Kim meets on the school trip and falls in love with, and I just love how how awesomely nerdy and sweet he is.
I thought the middle was the strongest part of this novel. Eileen Cook does such a good job of ratcheting up the psychological suspense bit by bit — like Kim, we can just feel the noose of Nicki’s trip tightening around our necks, and we can very much empathize with Kim’s worry that she’s overreacting along with her fear that she isn’t. The latter part of the book, once Kim figures out the extent of Nicki’s plot, turns more into traditional thriller territory. While not quite as wonderfully tense as the lead up, this section is action-packed and fun, and brings about a very satisfying conclusion to the story.
Author Q&A: Eileen Cook on her most memorable conversation with a stranger while in transit
Since all of Kim’s troubles started with a fateful conversation with a stranger on a plane, I asked Eileen Cook what her most memorable in-transit encounter with a stranger has been. Her response is hilarious! Thanks for sharing, Eileen!
Normally, I’m that kind of person who doesn’t like to talk to people on planes. As far as I’m concerned that’s the perfect time for reading or napping. Two of my favourite activities! I’m that person who settles in and pulls out a book as soon as my butt hits the seat.
However, I do have a funny transit story. I was once on the Seabus (ferry) here in Vancouver. Suddenly from the far side of the boat I see someone READING ONE OF MY BOOKS. This is a moment I had dreamed of my entire life. I debated for about a second and then decided to approach her. I went up, interrupted the woman and said “Sorry, to bother you, but I’m the author of that book.” She gushed for a while about how much she was enjoying it. I tried to act humble, but I was eating it up. She then asked me to autograph it. I couldn’t have been more excited- this was a total stranger who wanted my autograph! I whipped out a pen (I’d been waiting for this moment for most of my life) and when she passed me the book, I realized something.
It wasn’t my book.
It looked like my book from far away (the covers were very similar) but it was NOT my book. No way I was going to admit that I was wrong. I figured she would think I was one of those odd people you sometimes meet on public transit, so I signed the other author’s name and ran away. I’ve never approached a stranger since!
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Thank you to Raincoast Books for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.