Book Review: Death at Carp High by Jeremy Gold

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Title: Death at Carp High 
Author: Jeremy Gold 
Publication date: April 7th 2014
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult

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Death at Carp HighDeath at Carp High
A Jake Brown Mystery
Jeremy Gold
Carp House Press, April 2014
ISBN 978-0-9860663-4-4
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Jake Brown is your average, above-average kid. He generally has his mind on the usual things that male high school seniors think about: girls, avoiding Spanish class, girls, pizza, surfing, girls, and of course, girls. None of that changes when he and his best friend, Dean, go surfing and find a body with a hole in its head floating beyond the waves.

Shortly after “the big discovery,” Sydney, a cross country running teammate of Jake’s, asks him to go to Morp—“Prom” spelled backwards—a Sadie Hawkins-style dance where the girls ask out the boys. As if life isn’t exciting enough trying to solve a murder, it looks like Jake is about to have his fondest wish granted—a real, live girlfriend. Despite Sydney’s obvious attraction to him, it takes a little work to convince Jake the attraction is real. Luckily, Sydney is very convincing.

In the beginning, Jake and Dean try keeping Lily and Sydney out of harm’s way, but high school girls are pros at teasing out even the most well-kept secrets. Eventually, the foursome becomes entangled in clues—and preoccupied with making sure dire threats from their prime suspect don’t pan out!

Death at Carp High has as many peaks and troughs as a winter swell at Rincon, and it’s all Jake and Dean can do to avoid wiping out.

Like modern day Hardy Boys.

When I saw that phrase in Death at Carp High, it occurred to me that the Hardy Boys have not fared nearly as well in today’s book world as Nancy Drew. Both series are in current publication and both were popular back in the first decade of this century when my bookstore was open but, somehow, it’s Nancy Drew that gets talked about all the time, especially among mystery authors and readers. This is pure speculation but my guess is that today’s mystery aficionados expect cozies to have female protagonists and certainly that’s generally the case. There are some male cozy sleuths, of course, but not nearly as many as female.

Death at Carp High introduces a pair of high school seniors who love to surf and are fairly well obsessed with girls even if their fantasies are pretty much purely in their dreams. Dean’s a step ahead of Jake but both of them are stud magnets only in their imaginations and have some pretty silly ideas about girls. Do today’s boys really talk to each other this way about girls? I don’t know but then I’m not a guy and the author is so I’ll bow to his personal knowledge 😉

After finding the body, Jake and Dean fall into investigating more or less because they shouldn’t and because they’re sure the cops won’t figure out some things as well as they can. At the same time, they’re cautious when they should be and only occasionally get carried away with themselves.

I really liked the friendship and interaction among Jake, Sydney, Dean and Lily. These are likeable kids and, if I have any quibble with characterization, it’s that there doesn’t seem to be much friction between any of these four and their schoolmates. That seems a little sugarcoated but, again, this is a cozy so it fits; the same can be said about the absence of any foul language—unrealistic, I know, but I appreciated not having to cringe.

The ending was unexpected and, because of that, lends the whole story a kind of credibility it was lacking earlier. I was surprised (in a good way) and that’s always a good thing in a mystery.

Jeremy Gold has come up with a fun contemporary take on the Hardy Boys, coziness and all, and I think this will appeal to young adult and adult readers alike. Sure, there are hiccups, but I could not help liking this first in the series. I could really have done without the numerous vocabulary lessons but that was the only thing that detracted from the story and I’m looking forward to more adventures with Jake and his pals.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2014.

About the Author

 

Jeremy GoldJeremy Gold is seventeen years old…in his mind. He lives in Carpinteria, California, a small beachside town, ten miles south of its more celebrated sister, Santa Barbara. He loves hiking, mountain bike riding, and of course, writing. Death at Carp High is the first in the six-part Jake Brown mystery series.

Jeremy and his wife, Calla, have been married since 1979. Any resemblance between their 21-year-old son, Dan, and Jake Brown is purely…understandable.

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