Ruth Ware is a popular crime writer because of her immense talent for drawing upon other authors, but with plenty of originality of her own. Her previous work has echoed Agatha Christie and Daphne Du Maurier, and in the It Girl, she seems to be borrowing from Evelyn Waugh. This story reads like Brideshead Revisited if it were a contemporary murder-mystery.
Arriving at Oxford from a provincial comprehensive, Hannah Jones is immediately befriended by the charismatic ‘It Girl’ of the title, April Clarke-Cliveden. The pair become part of a close-knit group of rather charming, clever misfits. Their idyll of student high jinks and drama is shattered when April is brutally murdered in her room. Hannah’s subsequent testimony puts a creepy college porter in jail for the crime.
A decade later and heavily pregnant, Hannah is still haunted by her Oxford days. Meanwhile, April’s death continues to enthral true crime enthusiasts. When a journalist comes calling, Hannah is given reason to doubt herself, and she starts to think the wrong man was convicted. The most chilling implication is that it was one of her Oxford friends whodunnit.
Ware does setting and atmosphere brilliantly. In this book, she penetrates the pressure cooker environment of an Oxford college, delving into the rivalries and camaraderie amidst its cloisters. She adds layers to a conventional whodunnit by peeling away at the insecurities of her characters, making for a highly intriguing read.