Jilly Gagnon is a new author for me, and All Dressed Up is definitely an interesting mystery. After a tough year in their marriage, Blake hopes to surprise Becca with a murder mystery weekend at a remote mansion in the Catskills. He hopes that this will help repair their marriage after his infidelity. Given Becca’s love for reading mysteries, he knows she will love this “roaring twenties” weekend, though he has given her very little information. Unfortunately, this results in an embarrassing moment for Becca, setting the precedent for the rest of the weekend.
There are four couples attending the murder mystery weekend; Jessica and Josh, a posh couple from Brooklyn, ultra-hip and outgoing, Phil, Blake’s coworker and his wife, Heather, and finally Gabby and Drew, a middle-aged couple who are almost always in character, both wealthy and very standoffish. For this murder mystery weekend, there is a full cast of staff dressed for the occasion, notes exclusive to each person and schedules and funny names and roles assigned to each of the participants. When Bethany, one of the junior staff at the Inn, disappears, Becca suspects her disappearance is not a planned part of the weekend. Then, the other fellow participants start acting strange she wonders whether the murder mystery is actually a game or are the participants in real danger. She also notes the suspicious behavior of a few of her fellow participants. When she gets a stern warning from one of the fellow participants, she realizes she might be in real jeopardy.
All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon immediately reminded me of the game of Clue. The unique setting with a staged mystery but an actual murder, and so many red herrings should be a spectacular read. Unfortunately, this book is a commentary on the downfall of a marriage combined with an excellent mystery, and the reader may feel like they are reading two separate books. While the two themes are split evenly, the infidelity of Becca and Blake’s marriage is such a heavy theme that it overshadows everything else. I understand why the author did this; a murder mystery weekend to save a marriage but the theme of the mystery weekend would have carried the book. The reader will go in expecting a mystery but also experience a couple trying to salvage their relationship after infidelity, which is a heavy theme for any novel.
In short, All Dressed Up is a novel with an identity crisis. Is it a narrative on infidelity and marriage, as we spend so much time in the thoughts of Becca questioning whether or not to stay in her marriage, or is it a fabulous murder mystery with a 1920s theme? I enjoyed reading this book, but I wanted to “love” it and I couldn’t. These could be two amazing books as I loved Ms. Gagnon’s writing, but put together, they didn’t intertwine as much as I hoped they would.