Book Reviews: Creepy Murder Mystery Edition

Like many of you, I have read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (really liked), Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (liked), the other Gillian Flynn books (meh-slash-too-creepy) but here are a handful more books from that same genre that might be of interest. Honestly, I should stay far away from these books as they leave me feeling icky but I also eat french onion dip on occasion which also gives me an icky feeling later on so… I dunno. What is bad for you is rather delicious sometimes.

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The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

The Wicked Girls is the story of two girls who were accused and punished for the murder of a 4-year-old girl. Many years pass and the girls (now women) are not in communication with each other until a new murder re-connects them. This was a dark novel from the very start that only got darker. It left me with major heebie jeebies. I mean, you add evil doings at an amusement park to the plot and that is not an easy image to shake off when you are done reading. It was well-written for the most part (although a little confusing with the jumping around in time and too many characters) but overall I found it to be a very sad and depressing novel. You don’t have much hope for anyone nor are you particularly sympathetic to anyone. I will try other books by this author but wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

This was Jessica Knoll’s first book and frankly it shows. She has promise as an author but the writing and plot development felt so clunky and amateur. The story opens with Ani and her tightly controlled life – a life that is perfect and enviable and she wants you to know it. Ah, but things aren’t actually that great or enviable! Her past, back when she was called TifAni, was  dark and haunted because…DUN DUN DUN. That is the book – jumping back and forth between Ani and her increasingly unravelling current life and TifAni and her troubled youth. You get the full story piece by tiny incremental piece. I was left at the end going, “What? But…why set it all up like this?” I don’t want to give any spoilers so I have to stop there but I was NOT satisfied with the ending. And for parents, please note that this book left me feeling really bothered as it includes a very vivid and multi-page description of a parent’s worst nightmare. It was too much and it felt wrong given that it is based on something that has happened in real life. I would not recommend this book. It has its moments and I would give the author another chance but this one isn’t deserving of the tremendous amount of positive press it has gotten. Might make a good movie though if they dial down the aforementioned horrible event from TifAni’s youth and tweak the character of TifAni’s teacher/cross-country coach. But even then…I don’t think I would watch it.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

A married man meets a beautiful woman in an airport bar and ends up playfully saying he wants to kill his wife. Crazy enough, beautiful woman in the bar wants to help him! The premise was kind of dumb to be honest, but I was willing to play along with it and the book was enjoyable. I liked The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl better but this was still a fun one to untangle and did not leave me feeling sick.

The Faithful Place by Tana French

Tana French is a solid author who writes compelling work. She has well-developed characters, settings that feel vivid as a reader, and mesmerizing plots. Faithful Place is the location of the Dublin childhood home of Frank Mackey. He has avoided it ever since his girlfriend, Rosie, failed to meet him for their planned escape from their rough lives. When Rosie’s suitcase is found hidden in an abandoned house, Frank – now a private detective – makes the decision to return home. Twisty and turny and smart. I fully recommend this book!

The Secret Place by Tana French

This book still shows Tana French’s chops as a writer but I didn’t find it as impressive as The Faithful Place. It is the story of Frank Mackey’s now teenage daughter and the murder at her boarding school. The storyline jumps back and forth and it kept me reading way too late so I could figure out what happened. One gripe would be the voices of the teenage girls didn’t feel authentic – sometimes too mature sounding and other times eye-rollingly cliched and immature. And some other characters seemed overly one-note and not as well-developed. Gripes aside, still worth a read.

5 Comment

  1. Kate says: Reply

    I feel like I’m the only person I know who very much enjoyed The Luckiest Girl Alive. I didn’t love it as much as Reese Witherspoon apparently did, but I was entertained. And I was able to give Ani a pretty big pass on her miserable (but somewhat evolving?) adult personality given her two adolescent traumas (and how terribly her parents handled them).

    Loved loved loved The Kind Worth Killing — it was so campy but I enjoyed that aspect!

    I want to love Tana French but her extended descriptions of things drive me insane. Reading her novels often feels like watching a really long deposition to me. I haven’t read either of these two, though, so perhaps I’ll give them a looksie…

    1. Navigating the Mothership says: Reply

      Tana French is super wordy! Curious – do you also feel meh about Kate Morton then? She is also super prose-y which I love (but can see why it would not appeal to others).

      Okay, so I was totally on board with Ani’s current actions and outward personality and the rest given her two traumas (and also her dud parents). However, why did the author set it up to feel so “Gone Girl” with pulling back the layers about just what Ani had done in the past when it turns out it was her being involved in a horrible school incident and her friendship with one of the shooters? Was the point to be super suspicious of Ani the whole time? And if so, then the ending/resolution felt too abrupt (also borrowed from Gone Girl? haha). And why did she have to make her school teacher kind of creepy? I wanted to be more sympathetic to him but…yikes. I did enjoy a lot of the writing and found the book to be clever but I think she got carried away with making the plot unnecessarily twisty (especially since there was no real “reveal” at the end – wonder if she had initially planned for Ani’s character to be evil in the end) and by also co-opting some L&O “straight from the headlines” storylines. I will be interested to see what she does for future works.

  2. Jill says: Reply

    I love Tana French! In the woods and The Likeness are my favorites so far but I have not read her latest. I just finished Descent by Tim Johnston and it kept me up all night. Excellent read. Thanks for the feedback on the books.

    1. Navigating the Mothership says: Reply

      I had forgotten about liking Tana French so much until I wrote up this review so I will look for those other books of hers along with Descent. Thanks for ideas!

  3. Lisa says: Reply

    On a total Tana French kick now! Loved Faithful Place and waiting on Secret Place to come into the library 🙂 Looking forward to picking up her other books soon after as well. Thanks for the tips!

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