Yaba Badoe - True Murder (4 stars)

Yaba Badoe - True Murder

(Jonathan Cape)


Ever attempted to get inside the head of an adolescent girl? It’s a veritable minefield. Yaba Badoe achieves it effortlessly, however, in this tale of Ajuba, a Ghana-born youngster who rather unhappily moves to boarding school in Devon, and quickly falls under the spell of the sassy and ever-fascinating American Polly Venus. Initially suspicious of each other, the pair unexpectedly connect when a teacher puts the two newcomers together. Childhood games and typical pre-teen scraps ensue, until an unsettling discovery in Venus’ parents’ attic one afternoon leads to an obsession and a secret mission with tragic consequences. Peppered with dark twists and turns, we gain compelling insights into the twosome’s troubled pasts and family life as the story – and the girls’ fragile emotions – unravel.

Badoe captures the complexity of these characters perfectly, while giving readers a strong sense of the intensity of this life-changing relationship. A clever yet subtle storytelling technique hooks you in from the opening paragraph and keeps you gripped, and the accomplished documentary filmmaker turned novelist’s descriptions are rich, colourful and poetic throughout; certain sentences, for example, often demand a second or third glance, just so you can relish the rhythm and flow of these carefully considered constructions over and over again. Imbued with a real warmth and penned with striking insight, this debut offering is a captivating take on young friendship and the perils of love. A difficult subject matter, beautifully rendered in Yaba Badoe’s capable hands.


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