The Little Friend is not a mystery, despite what the description might lead you to believe. If it falls into any category it would be a coming-of-age story. Harriet Cleve Dufresne, a precocious twelve year old girl takes it upon herself to solve the murder of her older brother Robin, whom she has never met but whose death casts a pall over both her family and the small town she lives in. What begins as an adventure out of one of the many books Harriet reads quickly puts her and her friend Hely into the sort of danger she’d never considered. She also learns some difficult lessons about the adult world and the grown ups that she frequently looked up to.
Donna Tartt is most well known for her books, The Secret History and The Goldfinch. I still have yet to read The Goldfinch but Tartt’s writing here is similar to The Secret History. Half the pleasure of reading it is just immersing yourself in her beautiful writing and knowing that eventually you’ll get where the story takes you. I read this book on Kindle and I have so many highlights saved. With an emotionally checked out mother and a father who is literally and figuratively absent, Harriet has the sort of unsupervised childhood that would get modern parents a visit from CPS (based on context clues, I’m thinking this story takes place late 1970s early 1980s). But this allows her to get into all sorts of trouble without any responsible adults being any the wiser. Her experiences over this harrowing summer will shape the smart but naive pre-teen as she learns to navigate the wold of adults whether she likes it or not.