I wasn’t always interested in the genre, but sometime in the last few years I really fell in love with a well-written mystery with a dark twist to them. Two of the books I read last year that met that description, or at least I thought they would, are The Book of You by Claire Kendal and What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault.
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In The Book of You by Claire Kendal*, the main character Clarissa feels only relief when she’s selected for jury duty, it means that her coworker Rafe will have to leave her alone, something that’s gotten exceedingly rare. But as the trial for a violent kidnapping and rape unfolds, Clarissa begins to see parallels with her own life just as Rafe’s behavior escalates.
Unfortunately, even though I found the premise of The Book of You very engaging, the book didn’t manage to hook me with the same success. Stalking is creepy, but I just didn’t feel the tension that it should result in. The story dragged, and at times it was difficult to have sympathy for Clarissa who was often quite passive including refusing to tell anyone about Rafe’s actions. 55% of the way through the book, I made the note “it’s okay, but definitely doesn’t have my attention as much as I thought it would…” and ultimately, that’s how I felt. Although I didn’t find it awful, there are so many better done dark mysteries that really make you shiver and quickly turn the page, The Book of You just wasn’t one of them.
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After seven years that included a marriage, divorce, three cats, a dog, and an unfinished dissertation, Theresa Battle is used to disappointment. But in What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault* things quickly get worse when her older brother, Jeff, is arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Kim. As the evidence mounts, Theresa works to figure out who Kim really was, possibly putting her own life at risk in the process.
Arsenault’s writing is clever and articulate, although at times the emphasis on Theresa’s thesis subject seemed unnecessary. As a result, What Strange Creatures could feel slow-moving, especially for a mystery. Although there are some twists, they aren’t especially shocking, although a couple still managed to catch me by surprise.
However, What Strange Creatures is definitely a novel about the writing more than the intensity of the story. Still, Theresa had a really interesting voice, and I was definitely intrigued enough by Arsenault’s storytelling to pick up another book by her, In Search of the Rose Notes, which I believe I still own…somewhere…but I probably wouldn’t rush to pick it up if I can’t find it.
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I do love my mysteries lately, so tell me, are there any you can recommend?