Clare Vengel is a novice in the world of undercover cops, but she has more than enough attitude to make up the difference - a combination that makes her supervisors at the police station a little wary. However, when a cunning killer begins targeting local politicians and sending arrogant letters to the newspaper, all signs point to a legendary student organization at a nearby Toronto university - making youthful Clare the only viable candidate for the job. Clare finds herself thrown headfirst into third year political science courses where her fellow students speak an unfamiliar language of legislative bills and party politics, and her professor already seems to hate her. She expected the job to be tough, but she didn't expect it to backfire at every turn. As Clare draws closer to the secret society, she becomes increasingly confused about the people she considers both friends and suspects. Unfortunately for Clare, she's running out of time because every passing minute could cost someone their life.
The most compelling aspect of Dead Politician Society is the bizarre cast of characters. Every character Robin Spano crafts sparks strong emotions in the reader - but whether they be positive or negative is an entirely different question. Clare herself is tenacious and determined, always willing to enter the fray head-on. While her recklessness tends to get her in trouble at work, it makes her a winning character that readers will eagerly cheer on. Susannah, one of Clare's political science classmates, is full of snark and spunk and is equally admirable for her fearless approach to life.
However, the rest of the characters are of a different sort. Professor Matthew Easton will cause readers' blood to boil - his misogyny and arrogance are dumbfounding for much of the novel. Yet, the crimes begin to take a toll on his outlook and it is fascinating to discover the surprisingly deep layers hidden within his character. Even more frustrating is Annabel, the local reporter in a sticky situation after receiving the killer's first letter to the press. Her choices are baffling, but it is oddly captivating to watch her walk the tightrope between daring and disaster.
Spano seamlessly weaves these apparently disparate lives into an intricate narrative of whodunnit where everyone seems like a viable suspect. This truly is the best kind of mystery, full of endless possibilities. Though it is a murder mystery, the gruesome aspect is distanced from the forefront of the novel and allows it to be a fun, light read that's more interested in the characters than the crimes that drive the plot. The mystery maintains its suspense until the very end, and the ultimate denouement is a deliciously twisted surprise.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this novel courtesy of NetGalley and the author. This did not affect my review in any way.