Sunday, 6 February 2011

You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin

GENRE: noir mystery/crime fiction/young adult


He's come to do a job.
A job that involves a body.
A body wrapped in duct tape found hanging from the goal posts at the end of the football field.

You Killed Wesley Payne is a truly original and darkly hilarious update of classic pulp-noir, in which hard-boiled seventeen year-old Dalton Rev transfers to the mean hallways of Salt River High to take on the toughest case of his life. The question isn't whether Dalton's going to get paid. He always gets paid. Or whether he's gonna get the girl. He always (sometimes) gets the girl. The real question is whether Dalton Rev can outwit crooked cops and killer cliques in time to solve the mystery of "The Body" before it solves him. Sean Beaudoin (Going Nowhere, Faster, Fade to Blue) evokes the distinctive voices of legendary crime/noir authors Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson with a little bit of Mean Girls and Heathers thrown in in for good measure. This smart, slick, and alluring detective novel that will tease you, thrill you, and suck you in.


It is honest to say that I have never read a book like You Killed Wesley Payne because it is the first pulp noir mystery I have ever read. A part of me was afraid that I wouldn't like it because it was all unfamiliar territory for me – luckily, I ended up liking the novel a lot.

It all begins with Wesley Payne's murder. Dalton Rev, a seventeen-year-old Dick (private detective – and perhaps, sometimes, but just sometimes when he is too professional around a girl, a bit of a dick, too), transfers to Salt River High to solve the mystery of who murdered The Body, which is how Wesley Payne is referred to in the story. Dalton soon realises that Salt River High is a school where belonging to a clique is a must, the cliques clash constantly and violence and guns are no strangers to this school. The teachers do not really have any authority and one can hardly trust anyone at this school, which is something that Dalton can definitely confirm.

While I found Dalton Rev being a private detective at seventeen a bit far-fetched for my taste, especially considering the fact that his parents never so much as suspected anything (my parents have lie detectors installed in them, I swear, so I am basing my judgement on them), I enjoyed everything else in earnest.

This was a truly witty and intelligently written story, mixing both humour and drama. Dalton has a boy crush on a fictional detective, Lex Cole, and Lex is always on his mind when Dalton is on a case. It is something along the lines of ''What would Lex do?'' Dalton has all the books in the Lex Cole series, knows them by heart and abides by them. I found Dalton's fascination with Lex Cole funny and extremely entertaining, but Dalton does take his job seriously and he does what he does for a very good, selfless reason – although he loves his job, too, it seems. I really liked Dalton's character. Basically, he is an average teenage boy with teenages problems and dilemmas, but he is different because he works as a Dick and is exposed to danger a lot. Luckily, he's quite smart and knows what to do – most of the time, anyway. Other characters appearing in the novel were fun and interesting to read about, as well. Some of them are downright quirky, some arrogant, some backstabbing and some mysterious, but all of them fun to read about.

I see this novel as a detective story and as a parody of detective stories, both at once. The mystery of The Body is cleverly constructed and there is just the right amount of necessary tension and mystery present. The plot twists are delightful and the ending quite surprising and even shocking. I truly enjoyed the plot and cracked one half of the mystery – the other half surprised me, which is always a plus, as good literary mysteries shouldn't be entirely solved by the reader, in my opinion.

All of this is accompanied by humour and some parodying of classic detective stories. The typical plot twists and elements of detective stories are pointed out and Dalton usually does the opposite, yet the story still followes the usual frame of detective stories. High-school life is parodied, too, I think, because school cliques and school violence are really exaggerated in the story, but not so far from the truth. They deliver the point.

The novel contains high-school drama, secrets, mysteries, a touch of romance and surprising revelations. It is a detective story written in the style of a pulp noir mystery, set in the world of teenagers. It is an entertaining page-turner and if you enjoy mysteries and detective stories tinged with humour, then I definitely recommend this novel to you.

My thanks go to Angelo Gianni at BRS for sending me a copy of the novel, to the author Sean Beaudoin for providing the copy and for his great guest post.



Jan von Harz said...

Great review I agree that this book contains a bit of humor, parody, romance and a lot of mystery. This is not the same old YA fare.

Blodeuedd said...

Nice review.
I like the mix of things in this book, sure still not for me, but it still sounds cool

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

This sounds very different from most YA and like something I'd enjoy as I love mysteries even though I can never solve them.

Unknown said...

Hi Irena!

Nice review! I don't read many YA mysteries, but this sounds fun, I am give it a try! (I like the idea of a detective story inside a parody of a detective story.)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Dottie :)