I just love sitting down to a good mystery novel and being transported as I try to guess who the murder is and if I can really trust the narrator (the answer is always no). I had a few I’ve devoured lately so I thought I’d round them up and share my thoughts.
First up is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins which is basically the go-to reference for fans of Gone Girl (and I was a fan). I finally picked it up via audiobook, although as often happens with mystery novels, got curious enough 3/4 the way through and finished it with a print copy instead.
In The Girl on the Train, Rachel takes the same commuter train into London every morning, and as she passes the suburban homes–including the one she used to live in–she images the lives of people inside. Especially “Jess and Jason”, as she calls them, a perfect couple, just like the one she used to be a part of. But then one morning, she sees something different, and when “Jess” goes missing, Rachel becomes entangled in the deception and lies that follow.
It took longer than I expected for The Girl on the Train to really pick up the pace and hook me in, but once it did it was a dark, twisty story filled with terrible people and terrible things. Hawkins’ writing is intense, and the story did an excellent job keeping me guessing. It was a bit strange to have three narrators and not like any of them, but I still sympathized with them at times and it didn’t detract from me enjoying the story. The Girl on the Train is a riveting psychological thriller about the stories we tell ourselves about other people.
Pair This With: The whole premise of the book revolves around Rachel spying from the train, so I think this calls for a chic pair of glasses…the better to see you with. Check out my current pair, the Select Specs Infinity A6668 Glasses in this review.
I definitely love the dark world, dark people atmosphere of Gone Girl and The Girl on The Train, so it’s no surprise Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik* caught my attention (I actually even read it before The Girl on The Train). Dark Rooms takes place at New England prep school, which is a very glamorous and secluded place where Grace and Nica go to school, and their parents teach. When Nica is murdered, the crime is quickly solved, but her older sister Grace thinks something is wrong. Eventually, she drops out of college and goes back to work at her old high school, obsessed with finding Nica’s true killer.
While at times a dark, flirty mystery, unfortunately the storyline of Dark Rooms was just frustrating for me at times. Grace had what I like to call Spontaneous Relevant Memory Disorder, which gave her the uncanny ability to remember something crucial to her sister’s murder at times convenient to the plot which she had had somehow ‘forgotten’ before at. I honestly did not enjoy Anolik’s writing which made all the characters come across much older than they are. There was also a romantic twist that took the novel in a really unpleasant direction. Finally, the whole bit about the lighter felt like a gimmick in order for it to be on the cover, not that it was on cover because it was important to the story.
The only thing that really redeemed Dark Rooms for me was the messed up relationship between Grace and her mother, but it definitely wasn’t enough to save the book. Overall, as much as I will continue to be drawn to these dark twisted mysteries, if you are looking for on yourself, I’d recommend you skip Dark Rooms.
Pair This With: Nica is sixteen, wild and mysterious when she is murdered. If you want to recreate some of her darkness, try an extra vampy lip shade like the Urban Decay Matte Revolution Lipsticks in Blackmail. Of course, there’s also After Dark for an even more appropriate name.
The final dark, twisted mystery I have to share is actually a young adult novel, that caught my attention with a dramatic cover and title–that’s Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten*.
When June learns her former best friend Delia burned herself to death in her stepfather’s shed, she doesn’t believe it. June and Delia might not talk anymore–not after what happened one year ago with the two of them and June’s boyfriend, Ryan–but she knows Delia. She knows she was murdered, and she decides to prove it.
Even though the premise of Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls isn’t especially original, I found Weingarten’s writing really beautiful and lovely to read. I was reminded slightly of Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, a novel I loved for how surreal the words were. The storyline itself goes from a bit outlandish to actually just ridiculous but the writing made me almost able to forgive that until an ending that came out of nowhere and stopped just as abruptly. Still, I thought the relationship between June and Delia was really well done, and the mystery itself still had plenty of intrigue to keep me turning the page.
I am a little hesitant to recommend Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls because of how frustrating I found the ending, but if you enjoy dark, atmospheric mysteries it might still interest you. Although the storyline was flawed, I definitely appreciated Weingarten’s writing enough to potentially try another novel by her in the future.
Pair This With: I immediately thought of the Lush Beautiful Shower Gel because of the name. Beautiful also has a peachy scent, so pretty much the opposite of life in Weingarten’s novel, but you’ll need something to perk you up after reading this dark, twisted story.
Have you been reading any good mysteries lately? 2015 was a very, very light year reading-wise for me, so I’m hoping to devour many more books in 2016, and dark, twisted mysteries are great for that!