Title: Deadly Cool [indie bound] [amazon]
Author: Gemma Halliday [website] [facebook]
Genre:  Mystery
Publisher: Harper Teen
Series: Deadly Cool
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Source: Publisher
Reviewer: Michelle
Parental Advisory: language, criminal activity, sex
Teachable Moments: infidelity, girl-power, right vs. wrong

“For one terrifying moment, I was suspended in air above our crabgrassy lawn.  Then my hands connected with the tree branch, and I clamped on like my life depended on it (which it did).  I gave myself a two-count to collect my strength again, then shimmied down the branch, feet first, toward the center of the tree where the limbs converged.”

Summary (from the publisher):
First, Hartley finds out that her boyfriend, Josh, is cheating on her.  The, Josh is pegged as the number one suspect in a murder.  And now he’s begging Hartley to clear his name.

Josh won’t be winning Boyfriend of the Year anytime soon, but Hartley knows he’s no killer and she agrees to help.  Unfortunately Hartley seems to have developed a disturbing penchant for tripping over dead bodies, and it looks like she may be the killer’s next target.  One thing’s for sure: If she gets out of this alive, she is definitely going to choose a better boyfriend next time.

In my experience, a good teen-age focused mystery is hard to find.  Thankfully Gemma Halliday’s debut series Deadly Cool found it’s way to my bookshelves.  I’ll admit, I’m not a huge mystery fan (though I do like a suspenseful and unpredictable read) so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the first in the series.  When several of my trusted blogger friends read and enjoyed this book I knew it was going to be a go for me to pick it up.

I’m so glad I took the chance.  Deadly Cool was a fun and light read (contemporary fans you’re going to like this one too) that was a breeze to get through.  Don’t fret though, it’s being a breeze to get through doesn’t mean that it’s not a thoughtful read because it is.  Halliday creates a fantastic murder mystery that avoids being wholly predictable.  Sure, shrewd readers may pick up an idea here and there but ultimately it’s going to be a swiftly paced twisty read with the element of surprise.  Fun and witty dialogue lent itself to the book’s fast pace and made for an entertaining read.  It helped create a light reprieve from the darker more murderous angles.

Let me get to business here.  While the plot is fairly simple — girl gets cheated on by boy, boy’s girl-on-the-side ends up kaput, boy gets accused of said murder, former girlfriend defends boy — it’s execution and attention to detail allows for character and plot development beyond the obvious traps.  Hartley is both endearing and powerful.  Honestly, I was slightly worried that she was going to fall into the trap of being the jilted lover who pines away for the boy who did her wrong.  Thank you Ms. Halliday for shying away from that particular nugget.  Hartley was exactly the opposite, she managed to maintain her integrity while still being a good friend.  That she believed in Josh after his deception showed her strength and dedication.  I appreciated, however, that Halliday didn’t glaze over Josh’s wrong doing and showed how Hartley struggled with the question of if he did or didn’t do what the accusations flying claimed.  She wasn’t immediately forgiving of his actions but still managed to fight for what was right.

For Josh’s part I was thankful that he was remorseful of his actions.  Portrayed as the typical hormonal boy he lost his head and went for the physical over the prospect of waiting for his true love. This was unsurprising.  Also not in the land of the unexpected was the idea that he would crawl back to Hartley for help when he needed a reliable friend he could trust.  Even so, I didn’t dislike him.  Halliday expertly crafted a jerk that wasn’t completely detestable.

Chase as Hartley’s protector and new love interest was a welcomed addition to the plot as well.  As the resident somewhat bad boy he was an appealing alternative to a cheater.  Not without his flaws he had moments of irritation and annoyance.  He wasn’t any more perfect than Josh but his loyalty and dedication to helping Hartley was commendable. He made a good romantic interest too.

Speaking of which, there was a romantic element and I was thankful that it wasn’t one of those raging “who do I choose” debacles of a triangle.  There was a clear and definitive choice for Hartley.  Not only that but what drove the plot wasn’t the fact that she was trying to determine who she should be with.  Go Hartley!  Be yourself and prioritize the important things in life!

A good mystery with dark undertones, Deadly Cool, is the kind of book a reader can fly through and enjoy.  It encourages a person to do right and embrace their inner power.  I’m looking forward to the follow-up (which by the way is out now).