It’s just after New Year’s Eve and three teenage girls are stranded at the isolated Bramble Estate in the middle of a snowstorm. One girl lost her way on the hazardous roads whilst driving to visit her grandmother. Another made the journey to deliver a special piece of jewellery to the mansion’s wealthy owner. The third is an odd job worker at the estate who finds herself tasked with looking after the last-minute guests. Trapped in the mansion on the night of a tense family dinner, Devi, Lizzie and Jayne stumble into a shocking murder plot. Someone has poisoned matriarch Emily Vanforte and the killer has to be one of the four other dinner guests: her husband Charles, her daughter Lottie, her nephew Tate, or Lottie’s boyfriend, Douglas.
With car engines sabotaged and the estate’s power deliberately cut, Devi, Lizzie and Jayne settle in for a long, cold night. But this isn’t your typical sprawling house. There are secret passageways in the walls, knives hidden under floorboards and vanishing guns. Then there’s the tension emanating from Emily’s fraught family, who seem to share only one thing in common: their mutual disdain for each other. In a house full of liars and duplicity, the three girls become key witnesses in the murder. They will subsequently be questioned by police, their recollections prodded at, their stories pulled apart. And as the book moves through its five parts, it soon becomes clear that not all is as it initially seemed.
The trouble is, the killer was unlucky, because the snow meant we were stuck there too – three strangers who weren’t supposed to be there. Three strangers who might have noticed something the family didn’t. We’re the flaw in the plan, Inspector…“
Shifting from before the murder to the night of the murder, to the immediate aftermath and then a month down the line, Catch Your Death is a cleverly woven, multi-perspective mystery that presents readers with a Knives Out style backdrop where the wealthy family all have reasons to commit murder. Devi, Lizzie and Jayne initially just want to survive the night but as they sneak around the house and learn more about the feuding family, they not only become witnesses but investigators too. Whilst Emily’s death is a catalyst for everything that happens next, the story is as much about what happens before the night of her poisoning. Readers get to play detective with the teenagers, unravelling motives and uncovering secrets to ensure the real culprit gets their comeuppance.
If you’ve read Guron’s previous YA novel, This Book Kills, you’ll know just how well she can craft a twisty murder mystery full of suspicious characters and ulterior motives. Moving away from the school setting to the locked-room scenario, Catch Your Death is the perfect winter novel complete with its snowy landscape and frosty atmosphere (in more ways than one). But though the Agatha Christie-esque mystery might be the book’s main draw, it’s the emotional heart of the story that will make readers root for its unlikely teen trio. Devi, Lizzie and Jayne couldn’t be more different in personality – Devi is snarky and opinionated, Lizzie is gentle and sensitive, and Jayne is terse and sullen – yet they all share a certain loneliness that’s alleviated when they’re thrown together. Sure, the circumstances are less than ideal for new friendships to be made but the quick bond that forms between them is a surprising offshoot of the tragedy.
It’s always difficult to review a murder mystery without giving too much away and Catch Your Death really is the kind of novel that’s best read without knowing how it’s going to play out. It gets smarter and more entertaining as the chapters progress and by the end, you’ll be wanting to race back to the beginning to reread the clues you might have missed regarding the big reveal(s).
Catch Your Death is published by Usborne on 7 December 2023