cover image Four Letter Word

Four Letter Word

Gretchen McNeil. Disney Hyperion, $18.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-3680-9743-7

Incoming high school senior Izzy Bell fervently hopes to flee from her Eureka, Calif., hometown post-college. The only thing that brings her joy is Murder Will Speak, a true crime podcast. A new potential bright spot is the arrival of Italian foreign exchange student Alberto Bianchi, whom Izzy’s family is set to host for the upcoming school year. Handsome Alberto seems to instantly fall for Izzy, but worry over her mother’s high expectations, her absent father, and her love interest’s sudden coldness puts a possible new romance on the back burner. Odd behavior from Alberto, including his almost comical Italian accent, as well as friendship troubles add to Izzy’s stress, which worsens when bodies begin appearing around town. And then the latest episode of Murder Will Speak chronicles an L.A. serial killer known as the Casanova Killer, whose description is eerily reminiscent of Alberto. Though certain reveals are moderately predictable, McNeil (Three Drops of Blood) doles out clever clues and plot twists to keep the action moving and raise the stake—and death toll—of this entertaining mystery toward a life-and-death, storm-raging finish. Major characters are white. Ages 12–up. Agent: Ginger Clark, Ginger Clark Literary. (Mar.)