Yaba Badoe

True Murder

"a gorgeous dark and sad tale, very well told"


Ajuba is an eleven year old girl originally from Ghana. Having watched the disintegration of her parents marriage she moves to Britain with her mother. When her mother is taken away, Ajuba is placed in a boarding school by her father. There, Ajuba falls in with a new girl, Polly Venus, a brash girl who becomes a forceful influence on Ajuba.

As Ajuba becomes more involved with Polly's family she sees an idyll that she once had with her mother and family back in Ghana. But everything is not as it seems in the Garden of Eden and soon the cracks in the Venus family begin to pull her more inexorably into their fragile world. As the girls start a journey to find out the truth about the human remains they found in the Venus' attic, Ajuba's safe world is about to explode.

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True Murder, the title taken from the magazines the girls read about true crime stories, is an amazing debut from an exciting and fresh new author. Yaba Badoe writes with an assurance that some writers take years to master. The writer carefully drip feeds her reader, slowly unwinding her tale, misdirecting you until she is ready to show her hand. I have read many tales that involve children and it is difficult for any writer to keep inside the head and emotions of any child without veering off and putting some adult attitudes in which reflect more the writers feelings than their characters. However, Badoe has managed to give Ajuba her own voice and wonderfully keeps 'in character' when giving Ajuba her own thoughts and feelings. You can feel the mixed emotions of the girls and misunderstandings of the adult world. It made me feel very vulnerable to think that I could have felt that I knew what adults were thinking and feeling when I was so off the mark. This is how Badoe portrays Ajuba and you have to give her credit in portraying a girl who is misguided and yet only wishes to help her newfound family through their grief. But like an early Barbara Vine, Ajuba has her dark side which finally seems to come out. I wasn't sure if I would like True Murder as it was about a group of pre-teen girls, but Badoe beautifully brings them all to life with their insecurities as they stand on the cusp of womanhood. True Murder is a gorgeous dark and sad tale, very well told. Definitely one not to be missed by this exciting author.

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