Saturday, February 2, 2019
You Owe Me a Murder by Eileen Cook
When Kim signed up for the educational trip to London it was so she could spend more time with her boyfriend. But now that he has dumped her and is dating another girl also going on the trip, Kim is miserable about the upcoming trip. At the airport she meets Nicki and the two hit it off right away, spending a few hours together while waiting for their plane. Nicki shares stories about her awful mother and Kim talks about her ex, Connor. The two make lists of all the terrible things about the people they hate and Nicki tucks the lists away. Kim falls asleep and when the plane lands, Nicki is nowhere to be seen although Kim does think she sees glimpses of Nicki as her group travels throughout London. While the group is on the crowded Tube platform one day, Connor falls onto the tracks and dies after being hit by the train. Was it a suicide or accident? Kim can't imagine either one but then Nicki gets in contact with her saying that she took care of Kim's problem and now Kim owes her the death of Nicki's mom. Armed with Kim's list of reasons she wants Connor dead, Nicki uses everything in her power to blackmail Kim into committing murder.
I knew this was a "Strangers on a Train" knock off and I was fine with that. Especially since my students are completely unlikely to know what that is so it will all be new to them. But I ended up so disappointed in the execution of this and with Kim in particular. I know she has to make some dumb mistakes in order to keep the blackmail plot working, but she couldn't have been more passive in controlling her own fate, starting with keeping it a secret that she ever dated Connor. That decision didn't make sense no matter how the author tried to explain it. And then there was just the escalating series of dumb decisions the led to lying to the police over and over. Again, I know some of this is necessary because if you go tell the police and they solve the crime, the story's over, but I cannot forgive how even in the very end Kim gets out of this situation with no action on her own part. Again and again she gives herself the "work the problem" pep talk and tries to come up with a solution. Each time I thought "Okay, NOW she's going to take the reins and turn the tables on Nicki!" I was primed for some self-empowerment and excited to see Nicki falter when her easy mark turned out to be tougher than imagined. But it never happened and I felt no relief for the end of the tension other than that I was finally done with the book. It's okay that Kim has no backbone for the first half of the book because she has to get into a bad place, but please write her a way out of this that is of her own making with some clever thinking.