Hey book lovers,
After reading Still Life With Murder, one wonders how the author could pull off such a flawlessly done book with such a small amount of pages. I tell you, it was like reading a second generation Agatha Christie novel with a tinge of modernism thrown in for the 21st century woman. Page-turner! Let me gush…
2015 Reading Challenge: A Mystery or Thriller
Boston, 1868: The dawn of the Gilded Age, an era of burgeoning commerce and invention, of unimaginable new fortunes and lavish excess—for some. Born into dismal poverty, young Nell Sweeney scratches by on her wits and little else until fortune blesses her with a position as nursery governess to the fabulously wealthy Hewitts. But she soon learns that ugly secrets lurk beneath the surface of their gold-plated world.
The Hewitts’ eldest son, William, a former Union Army battle surgeon and the black sheep of the family, was reported to have died three years before in a notorious Confederate prison camp. But one snowy February afternoon, his parents learn that he is, in fact, still alive—and in jail for having murdered a man while intoxicated on opium. Infuriated by his son’s deception and convinced of his guilt, August Hewitt forbids his wife from coming to Will’s aid, so she begs Nell to help exonerate him. Nell finds that she must delve into the kind of dark and treacherous underworld she thought she’d left far behind if she is to unearth the truth before the hangman’s noose tightens around William Hewitt’s throat.
If anyone wanted tips on how to write a good mystery novel, I would suggest this novel in the top five. Why?
- Nell Sweeny/Smart Protagonist
She reminded me of Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote. Her skills were damn near superhero level, which I wholeheartedly adore. They don’t make protagonists smart anymore. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have given up on a novel because the protagonist’s mere thoughts weren’t cutting logic. I now have absolutely no tolerance for it. Nell was a breath of fresh air in a fog of idiots.
2. William Hewitt/Sexual Tension.
Every female author knows a little love goes a long way. William personified sexual tension for Nell, you know, once he got the hang of it again. If you’ve read that right, there’s a pun in there. At first, William comes off as downright mean. Spitting fire at every turn towards Nell and refusing her help. But the man grew on me and in the end, William Hewitt which had me smiling from ear to ear. From his cheeky, subtle flirting to his enduring support for Nell, his Gryffindor points stacked up.
3. Well-Thought Out Plot.
I read a lot of mystery growing up and after a while, it wasn’t hard for me to figure out the culprit. Nowadays, I don’t want to be too sure of where the story is heading. Surprise me. Don’t let me roll eyes at the protagonist for missing something. I had all that in Still Life with Murder. It was a compelling mystery, which left you guessing until the very end. There were times where we weren’t sure of Williams’ innocence and times when I was sure of the culprit. But when he/she is revealed? Wow. Not bad, P.B. Ryan.
4. More than Just a Mystery Novel.
I ranted earlier this month about a plot needing a broader scope–a general landscape to support all the elements that make up a novel. As the first novel, Still Life set the stage well for readers to explore the Gilded Age and the social implications that came with such a time. We got to see, through Nell Sweeny’s eyes, how a woman with her social status and secrets interacted with friends and enemies. Still Life With Murder is more than just a mystery novel; it’s part of the cream crop.
Check out the series, readers! I highly doubt you will be disappointed.