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THE IT GIRL by Ruth Ware: Book Review

In any setting, there’s always one person who stands out, a person who has star qualities.  At Pelham College, Oxford University, it’s April Clarke-Cliveden.

April and Hannah Jones are suite mates, as they’ve been assigned a two-bedroom unit with a sitting room in between.  A welcoming gift is from April’s father–a bottle of Dom Pérignon.  They hold their glasses high and toast.  “To Oxford…to Pelham…and to us.”

A group quickly forms with April as its leader.  There’s Will de Chastaigne, Hugh Bland, Ryan Coates, and Emily Lippman, and April and Hannah’s suite becomes the de facto gathering space for the six freshers, as first year university students are called in England.

The It Girl is told in Before and After chapters, the former taking place before April’s murder and the latter taking place ten years later.  Hannah is the novel’s narrator, but she’s no longer Hannah Jones; she’s now Hannah de Chastaigne, wife of Will, pregnant with their first child.

Hannah is working at the Tall Tales bookstore when she receives a call from her mother.  John Neville, a porter at Pelham and the man convicted of April’s murder, has died in prison from a heart attack.  Neville always declared his innocence, but the evidence against him was so overwhelming that there was little doubt that his sentence was just.  After all, Hannah and Hugh had caught him practically red-handed.

Even though Hannah testified at the trial to what she witnessed, she always has had a nagging doubt about Neville’s guilt, possibly because he so strongly protested his innocence.  Now, when she should be able to put that behind her at last, the doubt has come back stronger than ever, partly due to a phone call from Emily.

Since April’s death Hannah has been hounded by print, radio, television, and internet media, desperate for her thoughts about the murder.  She has ignored them all, but now comes another one.  Emily tells her that a journalist friend of Ryan, Geraint Williams, has been in touch with her.  It’s not the usual questions, she says, but “He thinks Neville was innocent.  He thinks…he thinks they made a mistake.”

When Hannah tells Will about the reporter and his desire for an interview with her, he is upset.  “Don’t start second-guessing yourself,” he tells his wife….  “It doesn’t change the evidence–it doesn’t change what you saw….This is not your fault.”  Hannah knows what she and Hugh saw, but yet, but yet.

The It Girl is a masterful novel.  Hannah is a wonderful character, and her continuing fears about Neville’s guilt have dominated her life ever since April’s death.  Now, despite her husband’s pleas, she’s determined to find the truth once and for all.

Ruth Ware is the author of several best-selling psychological mystery novels.  You can read more about her this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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