Title: The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance, Mystery
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
T.A.G. You’re It…
“It is 4 a.m. when they come for me. I am already awake, strung out on the fear that they will come, and fear that they won’t. When I finally hear the click of the latch on the dormitory door, I have only a second to brace myself before-“
At Cate’s isolated boarding school Killer is more than a game-it’s an elite secret society. Members must avoid being “killed” during a series of thrilling pranks-and only the Game Master knows who the “killer” is. When Cate’s finally invited to join The Guild of Assassins, she knows it’s her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs.
But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save The Guild. But can she find the real assassin-before she’s the next target?
Set on a remote Welsh island, The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay is a solid young adult mystery that takes place in an elite boarding school for (mostly) gifted students.
One of the few “ordinary” students attending Umfraville Hall, Cate is thrilled when she is selected for the highly coveted Assassins’ Guild, an exclusive secret society whose yearly game of “Killer” is a long standing tradition. The rules of the game are fairly simple: one member of the Guild is the “killer” who then creatively stages the fake “murders” of the other members of the group. The would be “victims” try to stay out of the “killer’s” crosshairs while at the same trying to guess the “murderer’s” identity.
Cate is surprised to discover her old childhood friend, Vaughan, is now at student at the school and even more shocking, he has designed a social network (the Crypt) just for the Guild.The Assassin Guild elders vote to let Vaughan into the group and while not all of the members are happy with their decision, the Crypt is an instant hit. The game is progressing nicely with the first two clever “deaths”, but things quickly take a sinister turn when Cate begins receiving creepy threats and someone creates an extra profile on the Crypt. Once the “hits” become a little too real, Cate and Vaughan are convinced there are two “killers” but will they uncover the identity of the real would be “killer” before it is too late?
Cate is a likable character with a limited circle of friends. At the end of the previous term, a couple of romantic missteps have made things awkward with one of her close friends so she spends a lot of time on her own since her other close friend is super involved with the school newspaper. While initially a bit uncomfortable with Vaughan’s arrival (their friendship came to a somewhat abrupt end years earlier), Cate is soon enjoying his company. He keeps her a little off balance with some of things he says and does, but overall, their friendship is mostly trouble free. Cate initially believes the threats she is receiving are part of the killer game, but she soon realizes these incidents do not exactly fit the “killer’s” MO.
After two of the Guild members are seriously injured, the police are called in to investigate. Suspicion falls on Vaughan, but Cate remains convinced of his innocence. Tensions mount as severe weather conditions trap everyone on the island and Cate begins to make some very unwise decisions. Is Cate putting her trust in the wrong person? Will her impetuous and ill-advised choices end in tragedy?
The Assassin Game is a well-written, atmospheric young adult mystery. While not exactly an edge of the seat thriller, Kirsty McKay does an excellent job keeping the identity of the real “killer” and the motive for the attacks under wraps until the novel’s dramatic and pulse-pounding conclusion. All in all, an entertaining twist on a familiar plot that readers of young adult fiction will enjoy.