Seventeen-year-old Dalton Rev is a private eye who dresses like a hipster and rides a scooter to school. When Wesley Payne, one of Salt River High School’s most popular students, is found murdered and duct-taped to the goal posts, his sister, Macy, hires Dalton to take on the case. Not one to say no to a pretty girl (and a hefty fee), Dalton transfers to Salt River to investigate, but soon finds himself at the mercy of greedy cliques and a corrupt principal. For Dalton to sleuth out Wesley’s killer, he must infiltrate the powerful cliques and hit them where it hurts the most—their rackets.

While Dalton appears to be confident and in control, his personal life is in shambles. His father is unemployed and his oldest brother is fighting overseas. Meanwhile, his attraction to Macy is clouding his judgment and hurting his case. Dalton’s only help is Lexington Cole, a literary detective whose impossibly close-call exploits offer Dalton lots of inspiration, but little actual help.

Author Sean Beaudoin’s talent is impressive as he intersperses several elements throughout Dalton’s story, including a clever and elaborate clique chart that takes the stereotypical high-school social hierarchy and turns it on its head (“Scam Wows: Members wear matching Bluetooth headsets and tight polo shirts. They’ll buy or sell your mother.”); the ingenious and valuable rules in The Private Dick Handbook (Rule #8: “Never fall for a girl named after a constellation or a European city. Especially not twice.”); and the hilarious snippets of Dalton’s own detective short stories.

You Killed Wesley Payne is a quirky combination of literary noir and satire that deftly merges the hard-boiled detective romp with the absurdities of high school, sure to be a hit with fans of Anthony Horowitz’s Diamond Brothers Mysteries and the TV cult favorite “Veronica Mars.”

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