Mondays Are for Murder

I don't know about you, but everything going on in the world has made it harder to concentrate when reading. Some of my distraction is probably due to the new baby, but I know the news is contributing, too. Fiction has always been my favorite escape. I've definitely been through book slumps, but reading will always be a source of comfort to me. But right now, only certain types of books will do. I want contemporary fiction (the happier the better!) and fantasy worlds (far away from the problems of today) and... you guessed it... twisty, thrilling mysteries. 

Can you relate? Whatever genre is currently capturing your attention, I've got two books to put on your radar on this very murderous Monday. I read A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, the first book in a new YA mystery series, and A Murderous Relation* by Deanna Raybourn, the fifth book in the Veronica Speedwell historical mystery series, in March. Rather than review them in my March 2020 Quick Lit, I thought it would be fun to do a longer post highlighting both! So, let's chat about these two sharp-witted heroines solving crimes.

Do you love Veronica Mars or Nancy Drew? This book is for you! Five years ago, the pretty and popular Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Salil Singh. After he committed suicide, the case was closed. Everyone knew he did it, no "allegedly" needed. Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn't convinced. For her senior year project, she decides to reexamine the case hoping to cast doubt on his guilt. But someone in Fairview doesn't want her searching for answers...

As soon as I started reading, I was hooked! The format was a nice touch since it made me feel like I was part of the investigation. It opens with Pippa's Senior Capstone Project Proposal and then has project logs and interview transcripts interspersed throughout. I loved getting to see Pip's notes, suspect list, and have a first-hand look at the evidence she had compiled. It was such a great way to show instead of tell – and was a welcome change from mysteries where the protagonist's findings are primarily revealed with inner monologue or significant conversations. If you like true crime podcasts, this would be right up your alley.

It was an addicting, thrilling mystery. I loved the heroine's inquisitive personality, her sense of humor, and her pursuit of justice. The tone worked for me – it's smart, witty, and just serious enough for the subject matter. The pacing was spot-on, and I didn't want to put the book down from the moment I started. I never felt truly scared but did have that heightened tension with every turn of the page. (I will note there is an animal death in here, in case that's a warning you need). I didn't predict the ending, but I loved that the clues were there if you could put them together. I recommended it to my sister once I was done, and she loved it, too. Why is that worth mentioning? She reads way more mysteries and thrillers than I do, so she's a tougher critic on the genre.

I liked how Pip's confidence and curiosity occasionally blinded her to how much she was at risk. That felt very accurate for her age! I wasn't sure how believable it would be that a teenager would (potentially) solve a crime that police couldn't, but Jackson made it entirely plausible based on the circumstances of the case and the failures of people in power. Additionally, I thought Jackson did a great job exploring how racism played a role in the case. The town's perceptions of both the murdered girl and her presumed killer heavily influenced the way it was investigated and reported. Not to mention the way the Singh family was treated afterward. That felt very realistic, unfortunately.

In addition to our spunky heroine, there's a great group of secondary characters. I enjoyed getting to know Pip's family, her best friends, and various members of their town. But my favorite was Ravi, Sal's brother. I was so nervous when Pip first approached him about her project, but I loved the way they partnered up to try to prove Sal's innocence. Their dynamic was one of my favorite aspects of the book! This particular mystery is wrapped up by the end of the book, but I was thrilled to learn it's going to be a series. I'm totally here for Pip (and Ravi?!) investigating and solving more crimes! And though I read the physical book, I noticed that the audiobook is a full-cast performance. You better believe I'm buying it for future re-reads!

Not long after finishing A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, I decided to read the most recent Veronica Speedwell mystery. I read the first book back in 2017, and it immediately reminded me of the show Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. There's something about an intrepid historical heroine + a serious and slightly exasperated man as her sidekick that I just can't resist. Each book of the series has been filled with banter, sexual tension, and a compelling case that they're trying to solve. The second wasn't my favorite, but the third exceeded my expectations. And the fourth? Well, it was one of my favorite books of 2019. Needless to say, I was excited to dive in to the fifth!

If you aren't familiar with the series, it opens in 1887 London with the newly orphaned Veronica Speedwell, a butterfly collector, ready to travel the world. Fate, however, has other plans for her. After thwarting her own abduction, Veronica teams up with a natural historian named Stoker to unravel the plot against her. Rather than live in fear, she embraces the thrill of danger and is soon thrust into a life of crime solving. While the mystery changes with each book, I love feeling like I know what to expect when I pick up one of these mysteries: a delicious slow burn, lots of banter, fascinating secondary characters, and a heroine constantly defying convention.

In A Murderous Relation, Veronica and Stoker are asked to retrieve a jewel from an exclusive private brothel because it could be traced back to Prince Albert Victor and cause a scandal for the monarchy. Plus, tensions are already high in London with Jack the Ripper on the loose. This specific mystery is probably one of my least favorite in the series. While I thoroughly enjoyed the book as a whole, I was expecting a bit more complicated intrigue. The summary mentioned that infamous serial killer, but he's a peripheral part of the setting and not central to the mystery. The actual case was missing that certain spark that I've come to expect from this series.

Now, that being said, the dialogue and characters were still utterly delightful. Stoker and Veronica have tons of chemistry and a delicious will-they-or-won't-they dynamic. After the developments in the previous book, I couldn't wait to see what the future held for them. But the course of true love never did run smooth, so I shouldn't have been surprised that they had a difficult time acknowledging their emotions. I was frustrated at first, but it did feel realistic based on everything we've seen from them thus far in the series.

Raybourn still paints a vivid picture of Victorian England. I admire the way she's created a world that is clearly dangerous and yet is still so inviting for readers. I love my time spent with this duo and typically spend most of each book with a grin on my face. The clever, snarky banter just calls my name! It's fun to see familiar characters returning in each new installment, and I always look forward to seeing who Raybourn will introduce, too. If you're searching for a fictional escape, this series would be the perfect choice. They're smart, snarky, and have the perfect amount of suspense and sexual tension. And if you like audiobooks, I highly recommend them in that format!
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

1 comment

  1. I totally picked up a copy of A Good Girl's Guide to Murder because of you! It sounds really intriguing, and I really want to make sure to pick it up this year (especially since the sequel is out this year).


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