The Girl is Trouble by Kathryn Miller Haines – Review

Book Jacket:

Iris Anderson and her father have finally come to an understanding. Iris is allowed to help out at her Pop’s detective agency as long as she follows his rules and learns from his technique. But when Iris uncovers details about her mother’s supposed suicide, suddenly Iris is thrown headfirst into her most intense and personal case yet.

You can read an excerpt here.


Well, this book is capable, and has lovely historic detail to be sure – but it still just left me cold.

This problem with this story is that, just as with its predecessor, it utterly failed to draw me in. Iris, our leading lady, should be a girl right up my alley – I generally adore plucky teen sleuths, and this one had to face down the misogyny of her World War II era to boot – and yet I still just couldn’t find any particular reason to  care. Iris is just so very, very boring – pretty much a personality-free zone – and worse, she’s kind of an idiot when it comes to sleuthing. If it weren’t for her best friend and sort-of-boyfriend leading her around by the nose most of the time, Iris would definitely not have solved much of anything, and when you have a leading lady who isn’t leading, well, that just kind of defeats the purpose of the entire story. Veronica Mars or Enola Holmes, this girl is not. I guess when far and away the most interesting thing about a book is its historic setting, well, that really tells you all you need to know about the lack of character.

So what kept me reading until the end, you ask? Honestly I was lured on by the potential, the promise of what this story could become, far more than the story itself. Because here’s the thing – I really did love the idea behind this story. There is something so delicious in uncovering family secrets, catching the people you love in lies, having to doubt those you trust above all others – something so wrenching about delving into a case that is so breathtakingly PERSONAL. And as a result this story was teetering on a razor edge, on the verge of becoming interesting, for pretty much the entire middle section of the book. As Iris uncovered more and more about her mother, she came so very, very close to gaining some personality traction – which almost gave me a reason to root for her, a reason to care. The story was right there, a hair away from becoming something I could get into – and then, then the book defeated itself entirely by taking the easy way out. Any mystery on some level is all about the pay-off – the build-up to that final reveal, the answer to the whodunit. And when that moment came, when this story served up its big answer, that ending turned out to be utterly and entirely a cop-out. There were SO MANY interesting ways this story could have gone – so much potential for delivering a life-changing, earth-shattering reveal that would fundamentally alter Iris’ world – and what does this book do instead? It delivers up the safest, cleanest, most disgustingly gee golly solution possible – and squanders pretty much every bit of promise this story had in the process. What I wanted was an explosion, and what I got was barely a fizzle – and that was the moment when I gave up on this book entirely.

But let me say it again – the historic detail of this story is truly, absolutely wonderful. Seeing what New York was like in the war years, at a time when it was so very dangerous to be German or Jewish, or heaven forbid, both – seeing the myriad of ways the war was playing out at home, and how life would never be the same again – it was just fascinating, and I enjoyed that aspect of this story very, very much. The world felt absolutely vibrant and real, and utterly true to its era – and that is no mean feat.

And yet, despite the fabulous setting and wonderful sense of history, in the end this story just fell flat on its face. There was potential here, no doubt about it, and I came so very close to finding a reason to care, but in the end that only made it all the more painful when this story just failed to deliver. What a criminal waste.

Byrt Grade: B/B-

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Kirkus Reviews says:

Haines delves deeper into Iris’ intriguing character in this compelling, self-contained sequel while doing a bang-up job of maintaining the ace period setting. A solid addition to what is turning into a swell series.

Criminal Element says:

If you’re looking for multi-faceted history with your mystery, The Girl is Trouble is a novel for you.