When murder rocks the small town of Friendship, Wisconsin, the results are everything and nothing like you’d expect. Condolences and casseroles. Small-time suspects and super-sleuthing best friends. No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale is Fargo for teens: a murder-mystery thriller injected with a high dose of dark humor:
Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.
Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.
I’m not the first person to compare No One Else Can Have You to the movie Fargo (and I surely won’t be the last) — but the comparison is fitting, given the small-town setting, grisly murder mystery, and unexpected use of humor to temper the story’s darker elements. In her debut novel, Hale masters the same balance of darkness and comedy that made Fargo such a success for the Coen brothers.
But even more than striking that oh-so-delicate balance between humor and murder, Hale writes with a beautiful eloquence. In the book’s opening scene — the only one told in third person — we really see how lovely her writing is, with the description of the landscape, the people, the mood. She paints a vivid picture that’s impossible to look away from. Sure, it’s a bleak and grisly scene — but she captures the same draw as the car crash on the side of the road that you can’t help checking out as you drive past.
Some of the finely-tuned eloquence in Hale’s writing is lessened throughout the rest of the book, but it’s replaced by the inviting and colloquial voice of our narrator, Kippy, who takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of her best friend’s gruesome murder when she decides the local police just isn’t up to the task. And we’re along for the ride — which takes some surprising and unexpected twists as the story unfolds.
It would be so easy for a murder-mystery-thriller such as this to become easily predictable for the reader — but Hale has some surprises up her sleeve, making No One Else Can Have You a really enjoyable and un-put-downable read. Because even as you keep guessing what will happen next, Hale keeps you on your toes. I couldn’t help flying through the pages because I simply had to know what happened next.
No One Else Can Have You hits stores on Tuesday, January 7th.