Book Review: WIN LOSE KILL DIE by Cynthia Murphy

Title in white on black with pink crossings out
Genre: Thriller
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: standalone


Book cover for WIN LOSE KILL DIE: title in white on black with blue hair with pink crossing outs

Everyone wants to be Head Girl. Until the murders begin.

The students at Morton Academy are high-achievers, selected based on academic excellence. So when a series of murders target the school’s brightest and best, the pressure is on.

Someone is determined to clear their path t the top and they’ll stop at nothing.

But who is it?

Synopsis taken from the back of the book. Add to your Goodreads shelves here. Find on Amazon UK, the Book Depository, and Bookshop UK (affiliate links)


This is a creepy little book about an elite school with a secret society forming the head girl/boy and prefects (nothing every goes wrong with that, does it?) And when a fully paid scholarship to any university is on the cards, then there are some lines people will cross to get that.

Kids getting picked off one by one in an isolated boarding school is such a tense premise. Particularly when they have state-of-the-art facilities, and so have access to a lot of potential weapons (and also knowledge.) The variety of accidents and deaths adds to the tension, because of the sheer inventiveness of how they all happen. It leaves you guessing how the next murder will occur – and who the next victim is.

It’s interesting to read a book where you guess the culprit on page 1. I’m not entirely sure why I got it that early. I think I’ve just read a lot of books recently where this specific culprit trope is used, so I was going in expecting this anyway, and then the first page seemed to confirm it for me. Part of me wonders if the book was trying to set up the culprit early, and then wanted to make you doubt yourself. It’s in the second half where the clues seem to start pointing the other way.

However, guessing so early didn’t ruin the book for me, because there still was a mystery in it. Instead of reading to find out who (beyond a confirmation that I was pretty confident I’d get), I was reading to find out why the person did it. I didn’t think the potential (rather superficial) proposed motive worked out by the group of friends was the reason. It didn’t seem to go deep enough to explain everything, particularly the longer the bodies stacked up.

I’m not 100% sure what I think of the ending. The reason made me a little uncomfortable because it felt like it was sort of pushing a harmful stereotype even as it was denying it – that it was leaning into it even as it was saying “no, this stereotype is wrong”. I think I need to sit with it a bit longer to decide which way I think it ultimately fell, and wait for more reviews to see what the community who deal with that stereotype think about it.

Read my reviews of other books by Cynthia Murphy:


2 thoughts on “Book Review: WIN LOSE KILL DIE by Cynthia Murphy

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