In the Study With the Wrench: A Review

*In the Study With the Wrench is the second book in Peterfreund’s trilogy based on the board game Clue. Start at the beginning with In the Hall With the Knife to avoid spoilers.*

In the Study With the Wrench by Diana PeterfreundOne blizzard and one murder later, Blackbrook Academy is a disaster. The campus is still in disarray with unrepaired storm damage. Students are withdrawing faster than you can say, “Did you hear about Headmaster Boddy’s murder?”

And, in the midst of the media firestorm, six students have earned an unwelcome reputation as the Murder Crew after discovering the body and helping to solve the murder.

Orchid relishes being back on campus even with the school’s tanking reputation because being there, being Orchid, means she’s safe from her past. Vaughn Green is thrilled that he and Orchid have a chance to spend more time together–but he also knows that means she’ll have more time to figure out what he’s hiding. In the wake of discovering some of Finn Plum’s secrets, Scarlett is reeling as one half of a former platonic power couple while Finn struggles to figure out how to win back her trust. Beth “Peacock” Picach is back on top of her tennis game thanks to a new life coach. Then there’s Sam “Mustard” Maestor who is still trying to make sense of his new (surprisingly dangerous) school … and his infatuation with the often deeply annoying Finn.

In a school that’s still filled with unaswered questions, maybe it’s no surprise when another dead body turns up and brings the Murder Crew to the center of another investigation in In the Study With the Wrench (2020) by Diana Peterfreund.

Find it on Bookshop.

In the Study With the Wrench is the second book in Peterfreund’s trilogy based on the board game Clue (find it on Amazon). Start at the beginning with In the Hall With the Knife to avoid spoilers.

Like its predecessor, this novel is broken up into alternating chapters between the six main characters. Scarlet is Indian American, Mustard is Latinx, the rest of the cast is presumed white.

In the Study With the Wrench picks up shortly after the conclusion of book one as students return for a new term to find the school and its campus much changed. Peterfreund expands on plot twists revealed in the previous novel’s final chapter while delving deeper into Blackbrook Academy’s secrets in this second installment. Readers also learn more about Vaughn’s tense home life and his complicated connection to the school as well as seeing more of more of Orchid’s past.

While this information sets up a lot of interesting plot threads to be tied up in the conclusion of this fast-paced trilogy, Vaughn and Orchid are often the least interesting characters as readers quickly learn more about their respective situations than either character–or anyone else in the book–giving some later plot twists less impact. The classic game characters, reinterpreted by Peterfreund, continue to be the greatest strength of this series.

With an almost literal cliffhanger ending, more murder, and plenty of suspects, In the Study With the Wrench is another exciting installment in a mystery that is equal parts humor and suspense.

Possible Pairings: S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett, Heist Society by Ally Carter, I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick, They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, Killing November by Adriana Mather, The Cousins by Karen M. McManus, The Deceivers by Kristen Simmons, How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

In the Hall With the Knife: A Review

In the Hall With the Knife by Diana PeterfreundBlackbrook Academy, an elite boarding school hidden away in the woods of Maine, is no stranger to dangerous storms. With the latest one coming just before break, most students manage to make it home well before the the storm sets in. Which is why, when the headmaster turns up dead in the conservatory of one of the dorms, suspicion quickly shifts to the small group left behind:

Beth “Peacock” Picach isn’t interested in anything at Blackbrook unless it’s about tennis. Which is why Peacock is incensed when Headmaster Boddy wants to discuss her standing on the Blackbrook team just before the storm hits.

Orchid McKee came to Blackbrook to hide. Until information from the headmaster suggests that a dangerous piece of Orchid’s past life might have followed her to Blackbrook after all.

Vaughn Green is a townie and a scholarship student at Blackbrook. Vaughn balances a nearly impossible courseload and his less-than-ideal home life with working part-time as a janitor at the school giving him a front seat to Blackbrook’s iniquities. And its secrets.

Sam “Mustard” Maestor thought starting at a new school would give him a clean slate. What he didn’t count on was how different Blackbrook would be from his former school, an austere military academy. Starting in the middle of a historically bad storm and a murder investigation also doesn’t help.

Phineas “Finn” Plum is sitting on something big. Life-changing big. But one draconian school policy doesn’t mean he’s about to share it with anyone–especially not the headmaster.

Scarlet Mistry is used to being on top of the school’s gossip and the top liberal arts student thanks to her platonic power couple alliance with Finn. But even with all of her tricks, Scarlet doesn’t know what to make of a murder happening under her nose. Or the fact that her best friend is keeping secrets.

With one murder, zero trust, and a million motives, anyone could be the culprit in In the Hall With the Knife (2019) by Diana Peterfreund.

Find it on Bookshop.

In the Hall With the Knife is the first book in Peterfreund’s trilogy based on the board game Clue (find it on Amazon). The novel is broken up into alternating chapters between the six students. Scarlet is Indian American, Mustard is Latinx.

In her author’s note, Peterfreund mentions her love for the board game and the now classic movie it inspired. (Read more about the history of the 1985 film in Adam B. Vary’s Buzzfeed Article “The Crazy Story Of How “Clue” Went From Forgotten Flop To Cult Triumph.”) Peterfreund’s love for her source material is clear in this fitting reinterpretation of the classic game from the intrigue-filled backstory to the punny character names including janitor Rusty Nayler.

While quick to get to the inciting incident (Boddy’s murder, of course), the narrative can feel unwieldy while getting to know all of the characters–even with Peacock’s workout journal entries being obvious standouts. With plentiful motives and even more secrets, solving Boddy’s murder is just one of many mysteries surrounding Blackbrook promising more suspense–and murder–to come from this trilogy.

Unreliable narrators, red herrings, and clever dialogue from a really fun core cast make In the Hall With the Knife a winning mystery whether you’re a fan of the genre or the board game that inspired it.

Possible Pairings: S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett, Heist Society by Ally Carter, I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick, They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, Killing November by Adriana Mather, The Cousins by Karen M. McManus, The Deceivers by Kristen Simmons, How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao

Across a Star-Swept Sea: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana PeterfreundTrouble comes to the twin islands of New Pacifica when violent revolution breaks out on the island of Galatea. The neighboring island of Albion can do little more than watch as revolutionaries rise up against the ruling class with the worst weapon imaginable. Centuries after war and Reduction nearly destroyed the world, the Galatean revolution is threatening to bring the last remnant of civilization back to the brink of collapse.

And no one seems able to intervene save for one bold Albion spy known only as the Wild Poppy.

No one can know that the Wild Poppy is really Persis Blake. With her vapid persona as a frivolous, stupid member of court no one could that Persis is the spy undermining the revolution at every turn. No one can suspect if Persis wants to continue her work.

The stakes become even higher when a Galatean medic named Justen Helo enters Persis’ orbit. As she and Justen engage in an extravagant flirtation as part of her cover, Persis has to work to keep her true identity a secret and her potential enemies close. With romance and confrontation on the horizon, Persis can lose much more than her heart if her secrets begin to unravel in Across a Star-Swept Sea (2013) by Diana Peterfreund.

Across a Star-Swept Sea is Peterfreund’s post-apocalyptic retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. It is also a companion novel to Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars.

Though the novel references the same basic world building and certain characters, Across a Star-Swept Sea is essentially a stand alone novel that works on its own.

This time Peterfreund returns to the post-apocalyptic world after a world-ending war and Reduction in a very different setting with very different ideas. Across a Star-Swept Sea seamlessly expands the world introduced in For Darkness Shows the Stars while creating a new setting and plot that is entirely its own.

Given the revolutionary backdrop, Across a Star-Swept Sea is much more plot-driven with lots of action and adventure. The unique way New Pacifica has evolved post-Reduction also creates opportunities for conversations about the politics of the islands. On a personal level it also offers moments of introspection for Persis as she reconciles the personal costs of her double life with the benefits in lives saved.

Like its predecessor, Across a Star-Swept Sea moves beyond its source material to become more than a retelling. With a heroine who is as stylish as she is fierce, this novel is an anthem for stong women and a delightful read for anyone looking for a dramatic page-turner with just a bit of romance thrown in.

Possible Pairings: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter, The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Legend by Marie Lu, The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2013*

For Darkness Shows the Stars: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana PeterfreundBeing a Luddite demands a certain set of rules be followed by Elliot North from the subdued colors that should be worn to the avoidance of all technology that caused the Reduction and nearly destroyed humanity.

Being the youngest daughter of Baron North–ostensibly in charge of both the North and Boatwright estates–brings with it both a certain prestige and a certain understanding of what is and is not acceptable.

Years of experience have taught Elliot to be guarded and cautious but even knowing everything her family holds dear, knowing what all Luddites are meant to protect, nothing is enough to stop Elliot from wanting more for herself and the estates.

Four years ago Elliot chose caring for her family estates above all else. The choice was absolute and, she thought, irrevocable.

But four years can change a great many things–even as far from the city as the North estate. With more and more Post-Reductionists appearing, the world itself is changing. There are fewer Reduced being born and more Posts questioning the absolute Luddite authority. In the wake of progress and her father’s frivolous spending, Elliot’s estate is on the verge of failure until Elliot receives an offer to rent the estate to the mysterious (and well-funded) Cloud Fleet.

Four years ago Elliot made a choice. Now, having spent four years thinking of everything keeping her on the estates and everything she has sacrificed for them, Elliot has another choice to make in For Darkness Shows the Stars (2012) by Diana Peterfreund.

For Darkness Shows the Stars is Diana Peterfreund’s Post-Apocalypic retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen. Because I was so excited about For Darkness Shows the Stars, I read it before I had a chance to check out Persuasion which allows me to say with absolutely certainty that this book stands on its own merit.

Peterfreund uses an unlikely backdrop to reinvent one of literature’s most familiar romances. Evocative settings of the estates quickly make it clear why Elliot is willing to sacrifice so much not just for the staff of her estates but also for the land itself. A well-developed premise makes Elliot’s world believable and captivating before you know anything about the story’s inspiration.

This novel aptly references Persuasion while also adding adornments to the plot that make it utterly unique. Rather than telling the same story in a new place and time, Peterfreund takes Austen’s characters and story one step further by elaborating on the class tensions found in the original text and re-examining and expanding the traits that made Persuasion‘s heroine and hero so appealing in the first place.

For Darkness Shows the Stars is a stellar book in every respect as well as one of my favorites from 2012. Already a must-read for Austen fans, I’d also go as far as to say it’s a must read for anyone looking for a beautifully written, completely riveting story.

Possible Pairings: Persuasion by Jane Austen, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Note: If you enjoy, For Darkness Shows the Stars be sure to also check out Peterfreund’s prequel novella, Among the Nameless Stars which follows Kai’s departure from the North estate. The prequel is available here:

Direct link to the pdf: www.dianapeterfreund.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Among-the-Nameless-Stars.pdf

Official Book Page: http://www.dianapeterfreund.com/books/for-darkness-shows-the-stars/

The prequel is also available for free on Amazon as a Kindle book.

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012

(Check out my recap of BEA 2012 to hear about the epic quest I undertook to get a signed copy of this book.)