By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Gone

Scholastic. (Murder, She Wrote: Bk. 1). Oct. 2022. 304p. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9781338764574.
Gr 8 Up–Beatrice Fletcher, mixed race 17-year-old great-grandniece of the famous (fictional) author Jessica Fletcher, is a bonafide true crime aficionado who even writes a column about cold cases for TrueMaine, a new crime site. When her own best friend, white Jackson Glanville, doesn’t show up to meet her, Bea immediately suspects something is terribly wrong. While searching the woods near their rendezvous spot, Bea stumbles into a potentially dangerous game played by students of the local boarding school. While trying to figure out what happened to Jackson and attempting to steer clear of his controlling, emotionally abusive parents, she also gets drawn further into the secrets surrounding Broadmoor’s ritualistic game, and the solutions to both may be more intertwined than she could imagine. Kuehn’s first volume in a new series brings Murder, She Wrote to life for a new generation of mystery fanatics by combining the elements of classic mystery fiction with a wholly contemporary tone and present-day characters. Honest and straightforward discussions of Bea’s journey to learn to live with her anxiety and the normalization of medication and therapy are important inclusions, and perceptive commentary on human nature is thoughtful and deliberate but stops shy of becoming too esoteric. Unsolved pieces of the mysteries set up the next volume in the series, and readers should be aware of discussions of suicide, self-harm, and parental death. Beatrice is Black, Mexican, and white.
VERDICT A slow-building, intellectual mystery recommended for ambitious readers.

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