As a fan of Gene Wolfe’s fantasy and science fiction, I couldn’t pass up a free copy of Pandora by Holly Hollander, which I picked out of the detritus of a folded secondhand bookshop. This book, however, belongs very self-consciously to a different genre: the murder mystery. The titular Hollander is a teenage girl who serves as the narrator. The story is set in a tony Chicago suburb in the mid-1980s, and though it was written as a contemporary fiction, the absence of cell phones and the Internet now marks it as a period piece.
Holly fancies herself the principal sleuth of the story, but she’s not the only one investigating the crime, and there’s no guarantee that she’ll be the one to solve the mystery. She’s an avid mystery reader and a child of privilege, and she seems to get along well with people, but knowing Wolfe’s fondness for unreliable narrators, I had to wonder if she weren’t a “mean girl” or somehow papering over her own faults in the course of the story.
The novel is parsed into short, fast-reading chapters, with frequent asides and reflections on the authorial process by Holly, whose “first book” Pandora is. The foreword also serves well as an epilogue, and can be re-read with the pleasure of context after finishing the chapters. Pandora would serve well enough as YA literature, and my tween daughter is certainly welcome to read it if it takes her interest. [via]