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

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men: A Nonfiction Review

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-PerezWhat if you lived in a world where your phone was too big for your hand? Where doctors prescribed drugs that are wrong for your body–assuming they even believe you have the symptoms you claim? What if you hands are too small for a standard piano? What if you are 47% more likely to die in a car crash? What if hours upon hours of work you do is never recognized?

If the above sound familiar, chances are you are a woman living with the consequences of a gender data gap that fails to examine how women engage with the world.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed For Men (2019) by Caroline Criado-Perez (find it on Bookshop) explores this gap and examines the numerous ways in which designed a world for the “average person” is usually shorthand to design for the average man–someone who rarely if ever faces the same challenges and situations an average woman might expect in comparable circumstances.

Criado-Perez breaks the book into parts Daily Life, The Workplace, Design, Going to the Doctor, Public Life, and When It Goes Wrong to unpack in various chapters examples of the gender data gap and the harm is causes to women both in everyday pay differences and discomforts (cold offices, too large phones) to more deadly consequences including cars not tested to evaluate women’s safety, personal protective equipment (PPE) fitted to male bodies, and more.

Criado-Perez reads the audio herself which I highly recommend if you are able to listen to books.

For a broad strokes overview of a lot of what is covered in this volume you can also check out this article at The Guardian which succinctly covers a lot of the points Criado-Perez makes in the book.

I especially like the time Invisible Women takes to examine and unpack what unpaid labor looks like for women. This book is the first time I have seen everything I do to manage my mom’s care contextualized as actual work. Which it absolutely is. This book is also the first time I feel like that kind of care has been framed as an unpaid job and not as an obligation or a burden.

Many of Criado-Perez’s points will be familiar rallying cries for feminists already familiar with some aspects of gender inequality and data bias. Regardless of your familiarity, the clear and straightforward presentation of information and data (or lack thereof) in Invisible Women will be eye opening for all readers. Highly Recommended.