Pretty Dead Queens by Alexa Donne
A sharply-paced YA thriller that will quickly get your heart pounding!
When Cecelia Ellis's mother succumbs to cancer, leaving her orphaned, Cecelia goes to live with her estranged grandmother, Maura Weston, the New York Times bestselling mystery author and Seaview'ss wealthiest and most famous resident. Cecelia was six years old the last time she saw her grandmother, and she has no idea what caused the rift with her mother, just that they have had no contact since then.
Seaview is the typical small town where everyone knows everyone else and all their business. Cecelia's mother had always told her that she'd hated the place growing up and got out of there as fast as possible. But now Seaview was going to be her home, and Maura seemed to be a pretty cool grandma.
The town and the high school have an infamous history. Back in 1970, when Maura was a student, the homecoming queen had been found murdered in the high school's pool only minutes after she'd been crowned. The killer was quickly identified and convicted, and the story became the foundation for Maura Weston's debut bestseller, Killer Queen. The book's success had, figuratively, put Seaview on the map, a mecca for Weston fans from all over. As homecoming and the anniversary of Caroline Quinn's death approached, the town was filling up with tourists attending the annual Westoncon scheduled the same weekend.
Cecelia is relieved to be accepted into a group of friends on her first day of class at Seaview High School. She even meets a boy that has definite boyfriend potential. But when the girl who is a shoo-in for homecoming is found floating facedown in the high school pool the night of the homecoming game, everyone, including Cecelia, fears a copycat killer is on the loose. And when Cecelia launches her own investigation into the murder, she begins to believe the police got it wrong all those years ago and they're really dealing with a serial killer.
Pretty Dead Queens is not your typical high school drama, though there is plenty of that to satisfy. It's a sharply-paced thriller that will quickly get your heart pounding! There are many engaging characters, a realistic high school setting, and a good murder mystery to unravel.
Cecelia Ellis is a likable and sympathetic heroine. She's just lost her mother, reunited with her intimidating and somewhat off-putting grandmother, left behind the only home she's ever known, and now faces being the new girl during her senior year at a school where everyone else grew up together. She has no emotional support system, so it's pretty remarkable how well she handles everything thrown at her. It also makes her reactions later in the story so much more understandable. The cast of supporting characters is an interesting mix of personalities and problems, with all the teenage angst one could expect in a high-school-based story. The friends all have their secrets, and you suspect from the start that one of them is going to die. But who?
The story builds slowly and steadily. Cecelia does a pretty decent investigation on her own, with help from the friends' group at times. But the story picks up at a blazing pace when she realizes the shocking truth about why the homecoming queen was murdered. The resolution is riveting!
With its engaging heroine, realistic setting, and pulse-pounding action, I recommend PRETTY DEAD QUEENS to readers of YA mysteries and thrillers who would enjoy a plot involving a cold case murder, a possible copycat killer, a high school setting, or a northern California coastal setting.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through NetGalley and TBR and Beyond Book Tours.