Recommended Reads: Murder Mystery

Murder mysteries have long been a popular genre. Names such as Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes have made waves in popular culture, and the ‘who-dun-it’ is a well versed trope. This popularity ultimately means it’s increasingly difficult to write an original and exciting murder mystery.

Whether as a result of an original plot, well developed characters or shocking plot twists, these murder mysteries all have something going for them. Maybe you could pick one of these up if you’re looking to give your brain a bit of a challenge.

I am quite new to the murder mystery genre, so this is just a few of the ones I have read and loved so far!


The Seven deaths of evelyn hardcastle

By: Stuart Turton
Quick summary: A whodunnit murder mystery on steroids
Rating: ★★★★☆

I previously reviewed this book (check it out here) after I got it at one of Mr B’s Emporium’s Reading Spas.

Throughout the book you follow the main character Aiden Bishop through 8 bodies over 8 days as he tries to uncover who murdered a woman called Evelyn Hardcastle at a party in her family home. Every day he wakes up and at the end of every day the same thing happens: Evelyn Hardcastle dies. The only way to end this fatal cycle is for Aiden to figure out who killed her.

The reason this book is so exciting is that the protagonist has no idea what’s going on, and so you uncover secrets and have realisations at the same time that he does. The structure, undeniably, is confusing at first, but stick with it – the beauty of the book is being confused until the end when everything comes together in a wonderful ‘lightbulb’ moment.

If you’re into Agatha Christie, this is one for you.

one of us is lying

By: Karen McManus
Quick summary: Who knew the psychotic inner workings of a teen mind ran so deep.
Rating: ★★★★★

I read this book as part of a buddy-read with Hanne, and I raced through it way quicker than intended because it really was a can’t-put-down book.

In this YA murder mystery, five students go into detention and only four walk out alive. The four remaining students, Cooper, Addy, Bronwyn and Nate, are catapulted into the limelight as prime suspects in the murder of their fellow student. We follow all four of them throughout the school year as secrets are revealed, and the circumstances of the murder grow murkier and murkier.

The thing I love about this book is that you can’t trust the narrator. We switch between the POV’s of the four teenagers throughout, and the secrets they keep run so deep that they don’t even let the reader know them. This really adds a fantastic dimension to the book, because it means the reader is a participant in the murder mystery as much as the characters are.

This book was such an easy one to get into, and the writing is incredibly easy to read, so if you’re in a reading slump or don’t read much then this one is for you.

A study in charlotte

By: Brittany Cavallaro
Quick summary: The refresh the Holmes legacy needed
Rating: ★★★★☆

Jamie Watson has just received a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. He hates his father, and hates Sherringford. However, it gets more complicated when he meets Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight a Sherlock Holmes story, Jamie and Charlotte can’t afford to keep their distance from each other. They are being framed for murder.

I love a story in which the protagonist is being framed (one of the reasons why I loved One of Us is Lying so much.) This book is full of high stakes, confused teen feelings and real-life legal consequences (something that is sometimes missing in murder mysteries.)

If you love the Holmes stories, or are new to murder mystery, then this is the one for you!

and more…

If you particularly enjoy YA murder mystery, then check these out…

Truly Devious – Maureen Johnson

Shortly after Ellingham Academy opened, the wife and daughter of the founder were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. But then Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 

S.T.A.G.S – M.A Bennett

Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S.
To her surprise Greer receives a mysterious invitation to spend the half-term weekend at a country manor with the wealthiest students. Over the three days, they all go hunting, shooting and fishing – but things become increasingly dark and twisted. Soon, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school.

Some lockdown reading

As some semblance of lockdown continues to reign over the planet, a lot of people are still looking to spice up their lockdown activities. While you have absolutely no obligation to be sprucing up your life and having a lockdown soul-makeover, it is a good time to maybe read that book you’ve been putting off for months.

Allow me to recommend something for you!

As inspired by Leena Norms, I have taken the liberty of sorting you all into potential reader categories, so you can happily skip to the genre you think will fit you best.

First we have…

The Non-Reader Readers.

You are the readers who only read for uni assignments. You don’t particularly like reading for enjoyment, but you are looking for something to do while the rest of the world is shut down. Perhaps you’re looking for some easy, lighthearted reads? 

Isla and the Happily Ever After

This is the third book in a companion series by Stephanie Perkins. You don’t have to read the other two first (and this is by far my favourite of the three), but if you have the time on your hands then I do recommend reading them all. 

This lighthearted romance is set in Paris and Barcelona, and follows Isla and Josh while they study at the American School in Paris. Josh’s father is a US Senator, and Isla is the daughter of a French-American family from New York. You follow this pair through the trials and tribulations of falling in love, politics, and the pros and pitfalls of private education. 

Although it covers some interesting topics, this book really is a fun, romantic travel book. You go to Paris, Barcelona and New York, and who wouldn’t love a little glimpse into something other than the walls of our house at this time? 

The Escapism Hunters 

All you want right now is to disappear into some other world and time, and not hear the daily death tolls and political blunders. 

Daisy Jones and the Six (audiobook)

This novel follows a rock band in the 70’s as they rise to fame in rock and roll LA. The story chronicles the hedonistic partying, the friendships and the fall-outs, and a sudden earth-rocking split that was never quite explained. The story-telling in this novel is so visceral that it feels very real, and it truly transports you. 

I would definitely recommend listening to the audiobook for this one, because it is read by a cast of narrators. This makes it feel like a podcast more than a novel, which makes it very easy to listen to and even more of an escapist novel. 

Also, this is getting made into an Amazon series – and so, this is your chance to get in and actually read the book first. Just imagine, when the series comes out you will have that haughty ‘I-read-the-book-first’ status! 

The Artsy Types 

Netflix new releases aren’t quite cutting the mustard. You go crazy for the artsy, aesthetic shots in Normal People. You are desperate for some real high-brow, artsy stuff. Poetry and the like. 

The Essential Neruda

If you’re an Artsy Type then you may have already heard of Pablo Neruda and his work. Whether you have or haven’t, now is the perfect time to read his poignant and steamy poetry. 

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is known for his political discourse and romantic poetry about love and death. The Essential Neruda takes you through some of Neruda’s most famous works. There are poems about the pains of love, the beauty of love, the tumult of death, accepting our fates, our relationships with family… Neruda digs deep into human relationship with itself. 

This poetry was originally written in Spanish, and so it is very interesting to think what has been lost in translation here, and what these political snippets mean against the backdrop of Chile’s tumultuous political history. 

Romance Novel and Chill 

Maybe you love a good old romance novel where you can sit and dream about your ideal gal/guy. Maybe you’re a sucker for a slow-burn. Maybe you’re missing your S.O and want to read about the good old times where you could go on dates and stuff. Maybe you don’t have a S.O and you want to read about the good old times where you could go on dates and stuff.

You get the gist.

The Kiss Quotient 

This is the first book in a series by Helen Hoang which explores neurodiversity in relationships. It is hilarious, unconventional, steamy, and so incredibly readable.

The main character, thirty-year-old Stella works in algorithms, has Asperger’s and has very little dating experience. The premise of this feels like a painfully dated representation of women with autism, but once I got reading I realised it was almost the opposite. In order to become more comfortable dating, Stella hires escort Michael Phan, and so the romantic drama begins.

This is a wonderful exploration of the sensuality of people with autism and of millennial relationships in general. With a no-nonsense female lead, and a probing look at intimacy and why it’s important, you absolutely have to read this book. 

The Book-stagrammers 

You’re into Young Adult fiction, and love a can’t-put-down YA Fantasy. Well… 

Throne of Glass 

At this point, it can’t come as a shock that I am recommending Sarah J Maas. 

This seven book series will keep you going for a while. Full of discovery, bad-assery and heart-wrenching romance, Maas’ epic really does have everything you need from YA Fantasy. The series revolves around the infamous assassin Celaena Sardothian, who has just spent time as a slave in a labour camp, having been arrested by the tyrant King of Adarlan. We join her as she enters into a high-stake competition for her freedom, and (as always) chaos and romance ensues. 

And if you’ve read it before? Re-read! I promise you’ll find little snippets and quotes that you didn’t notice before – the foreshadowing in this is something else!


So there we have some recommendations. If you love or hate these books, let me know! If you are in another category of reader and you feel left out… let me know!


SUMMER READING PREVIEW

This summer we are once again taking on the challenge of trying to read one book every week! There is nothing better for expanding your imagination and challenging your mind than reading, and to celebrate this, here is a preview of some of the exciting books we are reading over the summer.

Catwoman Soulstealer – Sarah J Maas

When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play.

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. Batman is off on a vital mission and Gotham is at the mercy of the new thief on the prowl. Joined by the cunning Poison Ivy and the notorious Harley Quinn, she wreaks havoc across the city.

Selina is playing a desperate game of cat and mouse. But with a dangerous threat from the past on her tail, will she be able to pull of the ultimate heist.

What’s the deal?

DC superheroes are being brought to life by well-loved authors in the DC Icons Series. Sarah J MaasCatwoman is the third release in this series, and is preceded by Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman and Marie Lu’s Batman. Most recently, Matt de la Peña’s Superman was released in March 2019.

What’s the hype?

Many of the reviews for this book are positive. People are loving the DC/Maas crossover, and most are liking the level of human emotion Maas brings to the character of Selina Kyle. Some want more strength and sassiness in the character, but by the same token some “think there is room for the exciting villainous Selinas of the past and for this more sensitive, emotionally-complex version.” (Emily May on Goodreads)

What are we expecting?                                                                                                                 

We know Maas can write action. We know Maas can write romance. We know Maas can write fantasy. We can probably confidently say that her action writing, character development and world-building skills will translate into her contribution to the DC Icons series, and therefore this book is probably very good.

However, what is particularly exciting about the prospect of this novel is that it is very different from Maas’ previous output; whereas A Court of Thorns and Roses, and Throne of Glass is set in a very clear fantasy world, with high magic and royalty, Catwoman is closer to urban fantasy, and is already established as part of a very famous, loved world created by a large franchise. It will be interesting to see how Maas’ fares in this style of writing, especially ahead of her urban fantasy series Crescent City in late 2019.

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

They killed my mother.

They took our magic.

They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

What’s the deal?

Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi debuts with Children of Blood and Bone, which has already got a movie deal with Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions. Adeyemi describes it as an “allegory for the modern black experience,” and in this West African YA-Fantasy magic, epic adventure and racial tensions all collide.

What’s the hype?

There is a HELL OF A LOT of hype surrounding this book, which is both a good and bad thing for the book. The more hype, the more exposure, but conversely, the more hype the higher the expectations of the reader. YA Fantasy readers have been wanting more diversity in what they read for a really long time, and Adeyemi more than delivers with this novel exploring race and issues in a world based on Nigeria and its mythology. Some readers have found issues with the book, saying the pace was very slow and they did not feel invested in the characters. Others, however, love the construction of both the world and characters, and feel it perfectly hits exactly what the YA market needs.

What are we expecting?                                                                                                                 

From reading some reviews, we are expecting the world building to be a particular highlight, with characters that you gradually warm up to the more the book progresses. We’re hoping there will be some good action and plot writing. Some of the more negative reviews have mentioned that they think the plot and characters are too trope-y, so it will be interesting to see what we think regarding that. Ultimately, this is Adeyemi’s debut novel, and we can’t wait to be introduced to her writing and finally catch up with reading this massively hyped book.

Once and Future – Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy

I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

What’s the deal?

Entangled author Amy Rose Capetta joins forces with The Color of Rain’s Cori McCarthy in this gender-bending, space-crossing retelling of the King Arthur legend. On the surface, this novel seems to have everything that’s hot in YA right now; a badass female lead, adventure, and a “sizzling, bold exploration of gender, power and revolution” (Jessica Khoury.)  We received this book in a subscription box from Illumicrate.

What’s the hype?

In reviews, this book has been described as “that strange blend of sci-fi and quirky comedy that some people seem to love” (Emily May on Goodreads) The hype around this book, however, is not huge. In fact, it seems almost non-existent. The majority of the reviews rate the book a happy average, with little to no outstanding or awful ratings. Many reviews positively comment on the inclusivity and humour in the book, but are a bit more critical of the pacing and intention.

What are we expecting?

This seems to be a good, creative idea for a novel, and the premise is something we are likely to enjoy, and so the success of this book will all be in the execution. How are we introduced to the world which is seemingly quite different from our own? How are we introduced to the characters and how are their relationships built and developed? What is the pacing of the novel like? Are we getting bored? These questions are all challenges we expect to have to put to this book.

City of Thieves – David Benioff

Four months into the siege of Leningrad, the city is starving. Seventeen-year-old Lev fears for his life when he is arrested for looting the body of a dead German paratrooper, while his charismatic cellmate, Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested for desertion, seems bizarrely unafraid.

Dawn brings, instead of an execution squad, an impossible challenge. Lev and Kolya can find a dozen eggs for an NKVD colonel to use for his daughter’s wedding cake, and live. Or fail, and die.

In the depths of the coldest winter in history, through a city cut off from all supplies and suffering appalling deprivation, man and boy embark on an absurd hunt. Their search will take them through desolate, lawless Leningrad and the devastated countryside surrounding it, in the captivating journey of two men trying to survive against desperate odds.

What’s the deal?

In City of Thieves, Benioff retells the story told to him by his grandfather of two boys in WWII Leningrad on an insane mission. The horrendous and the comical are interwoven in every aspect of this book. We have two young boys about to face the firing squad in desolate, bleak wartime Leningrad, and all of the horrors that war has wreaked on their city. At the same time, we have a Soviet sending them across the destitute city to find some eggs, and if they return empty-handed then they will face their deaths. Described as an “intimate coming-of-age story”, this book seems to transcend all normal expectations of a war novel, finding the humanity in the inhumane.

What’s the hype?

Described as cinematic in its style, with writing that transports you, reviews are loving this deft combination of fiction and biography that provides an insight into a city that was devastatingly affected by the war. Many say that Benioff successfully manages to write a historical novel that both puts characters at its heart and also provides a harrowingly accurate picture of war-stricken Russia. In fact, it is very difficult to find negative reviews of this book. The vast majority of reviews rate it 4 or 5 stars, and even those that are lower are very complimentary, and the reason for the low rating is that they weren’t particularly interested in the subject matter. The consensus among reviewers is that Benioff’s writing is exquisite; indeed, J. Kent Messum says “it’s a modern textbook example of how to write a great story.”  

What are we expecting?

We’re expecting it to be really good! Benioff is co-creater of the TV phenomenon Game of Thrones, and so the cinematic writing that everyone is raving about is something we really hope comes across. We are interested to see if it has the same sort of pace and tone as The Book Thief, as this is what a fair few of the reviews seem to imply. The characters seem to be of central importance in this book, and so it will be interesting to see how attached we get to them, and how they are developed throughout. As is it historical fiction, we expect that the world-building will be good, and we want to get a real feel for what life was like in wartime Leningrad.

Uprooted – Naomi Novik

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

What’s the deal?

In Uprooted, Novik presents a high-fantasy world saturated with folklore and magic. The anti-hero of the novel seems to be the evil Wood, and clumsy, average Agnieszka finds herself at the centre of the battle against this “malevolent power.” “One part Polish folk tale, one part coming-of-age magical fantasy, and one part horror,” (Tadiana on Goodreads) and with a purposefully vague blurb, before even picking the book up, we are expecting big things.

What’s the hype?

This book has a lot of hype from some really big hitters in YA Fantasy; for example, Cassandra Clare, Lev Grossman, Maggie Stiefvater and Robin Hobb. If that doesn’t hype the novel up, I don’t know what does. With words such as “enchanting”, “thrilling” and “a delight” being regularly thrown around, Uprooted is being reviewed as both “otherworldly and planted in the real”; the seemingly perfect combination for a fantasy novel! On the other hand, some reviews are not so positive, with readers wanting much more character development, particularly for the anti-heroes, and describing the story as “nothing new.”

What are we expecting?

Described as “a charming and inviting story that looks unflinchingly at the strangling roots of hurt and revenge” (Robin Hobb), we expect this novel to be an easy read, but one with some dark tension interweaved in with the enchanting magical world. This is exactly the sort of book a YA Fantasy fan should hope to love; satisfying plot lines, adventure, perhaps a hint of romance and some epic magic. After the build-up from all of those authors, we’re really, really hoping it’s amazing – – please don’t let us down, Uprooted!