I was intrigued by the premise and deciding I needed a good murder mystery to leaven all the sci fi and fantasy goodness I’ve been immersed in recently, I requested it. It was a happy surprise to discover I’d been approved to read this one…
BLURB: Divorced single mom Mandy Meadows scrapes by working as a barista and receiving payments from her cousin, Ryan, who rents her basement apartment. At night, she and her teenage daughter Vellum run a successful home business creating journaling content on their popular social media channels. But Mandy’s carefully organized world is about to come crashing down. While filming their latest journaling tutorial, Mandy and Vellum hear a loud noise on the basement stairs, and Mandy is horrified by what she finds… I’ve cut short the rather chatty blurb, which then goes on to disclose what I consider to be the first big plot
I really like the character of Mandy, who is in a hard place, through no fault of her own. She is a mother struggling to hold things together, after her shiftless husband has cheated on her, by holding down two jobs and caring for a teenage daughter, Vellum.
If you are looking for a no-holds-barred, action-filled adventure, then this one isn’t for you. After the first shocking discovery of the murder victim, this is a slow, steady accretion of clues and facts with a number of possible suspects being examined before being ruled out. However, if, like me, you really do like your whodunnit’s to be something of a mystery, then I do recommend this one. I obviously had guessed who the perpetrator was, before I discovered that I had got it completely wrong.
Apart from the well-handled murder mystery aspect, I was also engrossed in Mandy’s everyday life as a barista in a coffee shop at a local hospital, while also working on her online business. Redmond vividly depicts the struggle of so many people who are working in low-paid jobs with precious little security and a constant fear of losing their earnings. I was impressed that this wasn’t shown with any huge flourish or self pitying drama, but as a day-to-day struggle that needed to be endured – so much more realistic. Despite Mandy’s struggles, this isn’t a gloomy book. She is largely a strong, determined and optimistic character. However, I was glad to see that the victim’s death exacted a real toll on those around them. This isn’t a mystery where we really don’t care, and it was interesting to learn about the character after he’d died.
Any niggles? While I felt Mandy was very well portrayed and I loved the characterisation of nearly all the characters, I did feel that Vellum was just a little too good to be true as a fifteen-year-old with parents who had recently split up. But perhaps that was because she was also fully involved in her mother’s business with part of the responsibility of its success, which gave her a sense of agency, enabling her to behave in such a mature way.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and was impressed with the quality of the writing and the murder. I will be looking out for more books from this author. Highly recommended for fans of engrossing murder mysteries where there really is a real mystery. The ebook arc copy of Journaled to Death was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.