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Book Review: Charlotte Illes is Not a Detective

*This book review provides basic information about the plot but strives to avoid spoilers.

Charlotte Illes is NOT a detective, at least that's what she's been telling herself for the last ten years since she hung up her magnifying glass and retired from a renowned career as a child detective. I spotted this book at my local bookstore and after reading the back cover and the first few sentences, I was hooked. The premise - and the book's main conceit - is that Charlotte Illes is essentially a 26-year-old former child detective (basically Nancy Drew) who is now having a 1/3 life crisis as she struggles to figure out who she is. I worried that by a certain point, the former-child-conceit would feel tired or played out but it never did.

My first impression was that this book was a lot of fun to read. I'm only slightly familiar with author Katie Siegel's TikTok account which has garnered 600K+ followers but she has a sense of humor that is both witty and goofy which translates effortlessly to her writing. The plot of the book had lots of twists and turns - most of which I legitimately didn't see coming. The characters were all interesting, and well-developed, with an A+ for character diversity. No matter the character's identity, Siegel writes them with credibility and authenticity. The dialogue was clever and by the middle of the book, Charlotte and her two best friends felt like clever and witty friends I longed to call my own. By the end of the book, there were a number of scenes where I felt the dialogue could have been a little more tightly edited.

The writing was stylish which paired well with both the writing's humor and Charlotte's sarcasm. The worst thing I could say about the writing is that there were some lines that were repeated too many times (when Charlotte was grappling with some new clue, she could almost always be counted on to "chew the inside of her cheek") and by the end, I caught myself rolling my eyes at some of the repeated mannerism (eye rolling was another big one). I think my biggest complaint about the book was that while the mystery and clues were well laid out and the story had a lot of twists that were both totally surprising and totally earned (the BEST kind of twists) the character the development was the opposite. The three main characters all struggled with personal issues throughout the story (Charlotte with her identity, Gabe with his struggle to find a roommate, and Lucy with her relationship with boyfriend) and the resolution for all of these felt pretty predictable.

All in all, I had a lot of fun reading this book and would give it 8/10 stars. It was a fun cozy mystery with stylish prose, loaded with witty one-liners and characters you want to meet up with for falafel. Katie Siegel has a follow up to this book titled Charlotte Illes is Not a Teacher which is scheduled for a summer 2024 release and I look forward to checking it out when it's released.

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