Review | Death in Dulwich, Alice Castle

The London Murder Mysteries

Death in Dulwich is a fun cozy mystery about an assistant archivist who discovers her boss murdered on her first day at work. Beth is a likeable series heroine, and I particularly liked the parts about the mommy politics at her son’s school. The mystery was interesting and fast-paced, and the twists and turns believable. I like the extra drama that came with something she discovered in the school archives, and I found the big reveal rather sad, and the murderer’s motivation sympathetic. The romance with the police detective barely got off the ground in this book, but will be something for series fans to look forward to in future books.

A lot of cozy mysteries rely on the quirkiness of the heroine, and place her in increasingly ridiculous situations for laughs, which is all fine and good and something I enjoy reading. But I’m also kinda glad Castle takes a more staid approach with Beth. There’s a funny scene where her cat goes missing after a robbery, but Castle’s comedy is minimal and restrained. As a mystery fan, I also liked the random reference to Midsomer Murders. And while I don’t quite agree with the comparison to Miss Marple (Beth lacks Miss Marple’s supernaturally keen eye for human nature and slightly dotty persona), Beth is a solid series character, and the mystery is good.

About the Book

Death in Dulwich CoverThirty-something single mum Beth Haldane is forced to become Dulwich’s answer to Miss Marple when she stumbles over a murder victim on her first day at work.

To clear her name, Beth is plunged into a cozy mystery that’s a contemporary twist on Golden Age crime classics. But can she pull it off? She already has a bouncy young son, haughty cat, a fringe with a mind of its own and lots of bills to pay, as she struggles to keep up with the yummy mummies of SE21.

Join Beth in #1 of the London Murder Mystery series, as she discovers the nastiest secrets can lurk in the nicest places.

Buy the book online: MyBook.to/1DeathinDulwich

About the Author

author picBefore turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, will be published this summer, with Homicide in Herne Hill due to follow in early 2019. Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alicecastleauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDsDiary

Giveaway (UK only)

 

Win signed copies of Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery (UK Only)

This giveaway is run by Rachel’s Random Resources.

Enter on Rafflecopter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494106/?

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  PThe winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Review | All We Ever Wanted, Emily Giffin

36723031All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin is such a fascinating and relevant story. A photo of a drunk, partially undressed teenage girl, labelled with a racist caption, surfaces at the elite Windsor Academy, and the novel deals with the fallout on three characters: Nina, the wealthy mother of the boy who took the photo; Tom, the working class father of the girl in the photo; and Lyla, the girl herself, who is at Windsor Academy on scholarship.

I love how nuanced all of their responses to the incident are, and how their responses are so influenced by class and gender issues. Nina had a middle class small town upbringing and while she married a wealthy tech entrepreneur, she never fully felt comfortable with their wealth. An incident in her past also makes her particularly sympathetic to Lyla, and utterly horrified at what her son Finch did. So when Finch doesn’t seem too fazed by the incident, and Nina’s husband Kirk just wants to pay people off to sweep the incident under the rug, Nina isn’t just angry, she’s disgusted at the careless way in which her family abuses their privilege. I liked that about her because so often the mother character immediately goes into protective mode for her child, no matter what they did, so I like that Nina takes a longer-term, moralistic view and wants to see her son punished now in order to build his character and ethical framework for the future. I did wish she was a bit more torn up about her response, or a bit more invested in a lighter punishment. It seemed almost an easy decision for her to risk her son’s losing his spot at Princeton and potentially gaining a permanent mark as a sex offender.

Tom was also an interesting character. I sympathized with the hardships he faced as a single dad, and very much respected him for working multiple jobs to support his daughter. I fully understand why he’d be out for Finch’s blood after the incident, and I love that his desire for revenge was fuelled not just by his love for his daughter but by the major chip on his shoulder towards rich people. Similar to Nina’s relationship with Finch, I thought Tom’s relationship with Lyla was very well handled. I love how he balances disciplining his daughter for going to a party and drinking without his permission and providing his daughter with all the support she needs for the consequences of her actions. Giffin does a great job with Tom and Lyla’s conversations; it’s very clear how much he loves his daughter and wants to do the best for her, but may not be 100% sure how. I very much respect him for advocating for justice at Windsor Academy even when it went against Lyla’s wishes, and I also respect Lyla for calling him out on his motivations not being fully about her welfare. I thought that, given the size of the chip on his shoulder and what had happened to his daughter, he’d take longer than he did to warm up to Nina, and I wasn’t a big fan of the pseudo-sexual tension that popped up every now and again, but overall, I like how things turned out.

I thought Lyla was the standout star of this novel, which I didn’t expect to be my reaction. I love how she appears the most clear-headed of the three perspectives, and the most open to hearing Finch’s version of the truth. I like that she believed in the possibility of Finch’s innocence not just because she had a crush on him or wanted to fit in at school, but because she knew the various people at the party and was confident enough to trust her own instincts about them. She was remarkably mature for a high school freshman, and I like that while she was the victim in the incident, she also seemed the most well-equipped to handle the fallout.

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review | Like Never and Always, Ann Aguirre

33224073After a car crash, Liv wakes up in the body of her best friend Morgan. She has no idea what had happened to Morgan, and learns that her own body as Liv didn’t survive the crash. Unable to prove her true identity, she begins to live out Morgan’s life, and learns that before she died, Morgan had been involved in a risky scheme that (without giving too much away) involves an illicit affair and a possible murder. She also finds herself unable to forget her feelings for Liv’s boyfriend Nathan, even as she finds herself developing new and deeply complex feelings for Clay, Morgan’s boyfriend and Nathan’s brother.

Like Never and Always has an incredibly compelling premise that hooked me immediately. Who is the girl in Morgan’s body? Is it Morgan dealing with survivor’s guilt by believing she’s Liv, or is she Liv whose spirit somehow ended up surviving after her body dies? The girl has feelings and memories that seem to suggest she’s right in believing she’s Liv, but as the story progresses, she also gets flashes of memory that only Morgan could have known.

I’ll warn you right off the bat that Aguirre does come up with an explanation that ultimately satisfies her protagonist, but doesn’t quite resolve the mystery as definitively as I’d hoped. The answer isn’t quite developed enough to make this a psychological thriller or science fiction (which is what I’d expected, for some reason), nor is it definitive enough to make this effective as supernatural/horror. Rather, Aguirre is much more interested in the emotional implications on her protagonist, and despite the potentially supernatural or psychological elements, this book feels more like contemporary YA thriller than anything else.

I highly recommend suspending your disbelief, as I did, and simply letting the non-supernatural elements of the story take over, because the payoff is well worth it. I love Liv’s journey into finding her place within this new life, and I love how her new perspective in Morgan’s body made her realize some things she’d never considered as Liv. Most notable, of course, was how awesome a guy Clay really is, but I also appreciated the little touches, such as Liv realizing that she could’ve gotten away with something as Liv, but now as Morgan, she must get used to being the centre of attention and needing to be more circumspect with her appearance and behaviour. I also loved how she wanted to find a balance between fitting in as Morgan was, but also not giving up who she had been as Liv, and I thought Aguirre did a great job of depicting that part of her life.

The thriller-ish elements were a bit underdeveloped. There was the investigation into a potential killer, and the disturbing revelation of what Morgan had put herself through to get at the truth. And there is certainly some practical and emotional payoffs to how Liv handled it when she took over. But overall, I thought the threads of this subplot were resolved too simplistically, and part of me wonders how the story would have been without this subplot, and with its focus firmly on Liv getting used to her new life and the implications of taking over Morgan’s future.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I wish some of the genre elements had been better developed and the mythology around the body swap more deeply explored, but as a whole, I thought the story worked. I was drawn to the character and her story, and I loved the emotional complexity of the new reality she has to deal with.

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Thank you to Raincoast Books for an advance reading copy of this book in exchangefor an honest review.