I’ve been reading a lot of murder mystery series recently – and my attention was snagged by the concept of a writer of detective novels turning amateur sleuth. Yes… I know it’s not remotely original, but I’ve recently thoroughly enjoyed a TV series based on that premise and wanted to see if Malliet’s version would be similarly entertaining.
BLURB: Where are Niko and Zora Norman? Crime writer Augusta Hawke puts her sleuthing skills to the test to solve the mystery of her disappearing neighbors in the first entry in a new series. While Augusta Hawke is a successful author of eighteen crime novels, since her husband’s death she’s been living vicariously through her Jules Maigret-like detective Claude and his assistant Caroline. Then a handsome police detective appears investigating a real-life mystery.
Where are her neighbors, the Normans? No one has a clue what’s happened – except Augusta. Although she isn’t nosy, spending all day staring out the windows for inspiration means she does notice things. Like the Normans arguing. And that they’ve been missing a week.
REVIEW: Let’s get one thing straight – if you’re looking for an action-packed, foot-to-the-floor thriller, then pass on this one. Instead, you get a slow-burn building sense of wrongness that gradually develops into an investigation – although Augusta is the first to admit that she largely started looking into her neighbours’ disappearance because she’d hit a bit of a wall with her latest manuscript. Indeed, it’s debatable whether the pacing is a tad too slow at times, though I was never in any danger of abandoning this one. Augusta’s dry humour held me throughout. Her personality and my liking for her is the outstanding aspect of this book – I definitely am looking forward to reading more in the series.
Not in the first flush of youth, Augusta was widowed when her beloved husband died in a car crash. Upsettingly, the circumstances of his death led to very hurtful discoveries about him hand the double life he was leading. And since his death, she has retreated into her writing, watching the world from her window and her regular walks with her dog. I liked how the devastation of Marcus’s death slowly is revealed – this aspect of the story could have so easily slid into a self-pitying whine. However, Augusta uses humour as her defence and refuge, which had me grinning and thoroughly rooting for her. The writing is accomplished and Malliet is clearly an experienced storyteller with a particular talent for writing a strong, sympathetic protagonist capable of engaging this reader’s affection – I really cared about Augusta.
That is particularly important when the stakes suddenly become a whole lot higher as the book suddenly shifts up a couple of gears during the climactic denouement. And while I’d a suspicion about the actual villain – the backstory and extent of the antagonist’s wrongdoing came as a shock. Recommended for fans of contemporary mysteries that aren’t too gritty or dripping with gore and feature a strong female protagonist. While I obtained an arc of Augusta Hawke from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
Intriguing review! I like the idea that the main character’s investigation dovetails with discoveries about the past and her husband’s double life: it sounds like added depth to the main investigation.
Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Ah… I may have misrepresented what is going on, there! She already knows the full extent of what happened with her husband – that’s what caused her to retreat in the first place. However, getting involved in the investigation is what finally draws her out again… I really liked that dynamic. The author effectively showed us how much she’d been damaged, rather than just told us…
And showing is always preferable to telling, indeed! Thank you for the clarification! 🙂
So, have you been watching Murder She Wrote or something more recent?
No… the series I’ve thoroughly enjoyed is Queens of Mystery, which is FAR better than Murder She Wrote. There has only been one series so far, but it’s funny and quirky with some really enjoyable characters. I hope there’s more to come – but I highly recommend it!!