ARC provided by HMH in exchange for an honest review.
Seventeen-year-old Kim gets more than she bargained for when she is set up for murder. Perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying, E. Lockhart, and Gillian Flynn.
17-year-old Kim never expected to plot a murder. But that was before her boyfriend dumped her for another girl. Now, Kim’s stuck on a class trip to London with him and his new soulmate and she can’t help wishing he was a little bit dead, even if she’d never really do that.
But when Kim meets Nicki, a stranger on the plane who’s more than willing to listen to Kim’s woes, things start to look up. Nicki’s got a great sense of humor, and when she jokes about swapping murders, Kim plays along—that is, until Kim’s ex-boyfriend mysteriously dies.
Blackmailed by Nicki to fulfill her end of the deal, Kim will have to commit a murder or take the fall for one.
I knew I had to read this the second I found out Eileen Cook was releasing a new book! I have been a fan for a very long time, and I love how Eileen’s books always incorporate a thrilling/mysterious theme.
You Owe Me a Murder follows a similar type of story in line with Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, which was then made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock. The format goes like this: Two strangers meet, in this case, on a plane. One person expresses that they want someone in their life *gone*, and the other person expresses the same wish. Together they formulate the perfect crime; they swap murders so the crime cannot be linked to themselves.
We first meet Kim, a high school student sitting in an airport waiting on her flight to London. She’s traveling with a small group of students on a 2 week study-abroad, but she’s not in good spirits because her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend are going, too. Noticing how lonely Kim is, Nicki, a stranger, sits beside Kim and they form a sudden kinship. Soon they’re both getting tipsy on stolen vodka on the plane, and they both express how much they’re hurting: Nicki claims her alcoholic mother is ruining her life, while Kim is angry with her ex, Connor. Nicki convinces Kim to write down all the reasons Connor “should die”, and in her drunken stupor, Kim agrees. Then the conversation turns serious and Nicki asks Kim to kill her mother. Kim is stunned, but doesn’t agree to it.
When Kim wakes up from her vodka-induced sleep, the plane has landed in London and Nicki is gone. Thinking it was all just a silly conversation, Kim continues on her school trip — until early on, Connor ends up dead and Kim finds a horrifying note linking Nicki to his death.
Kim also pairs up with a cute boy named Alex, and an insta-love romance blooms. I actually don’t mind insta-love tropes, but one thing that I wasn’t really fond of was when things went into… “unreliable narrator territory.” There are some twists that throw Kim under the unreliable narrator bus, and I just wasn’t loving it. I was also getting frustrated by how poorly Kim was handling everything and how unrealistic Nicki was as a “villain.”
However, I also want to talk about WHY I think Kim reacted the way she did. Sure, it may have annoyed me, but it’s also important to remember that she was in a foreign country, and we all know what happens when young American women start to fall under suspicion by law enforcement. (*Cough* Can we say Amanda Knox? Which, by the way, I feel is now a good time to boost With Malice, because Eileen Cook drew lots of inspiration from Knox’s case for that book.)
But I always enjoy a good whodunnit mystery, and I loved how their investigative adventures took them all over London. I will forever read anything Eileen writes because she has such a knack for writing amazing YA plots and characters. I am always a sucker for any books that take place in Europe.
I think if you want something more adult, then I’d recommend picking up The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson. The strangers-meet-to-swap-murders set-up is similar but with more mature content. But I truly think You Owe Me a Murder is great for younger readers, and it has just the right amount of murder, adventure, and romance!
Trigger warnings: Talks of suicide, alcoholism, cheating, stalking, death of child.