reviewed by Gail Byrd
G.M. Malliet has brought us a new central character and a thoroughly modern setting in her latest entry into mystery fiction, Augusta Hawke. Augusta is a fabulously successful writer of mysteries that seem to fall closer to the thriller/adventure/spy novel than anything else. She is a dedicated writer, and has her regular routine of writing four pages per day.
The rest of her time is primarily spent inside her exclusive townhome in the Old Town section of Washington, D.C. Some of her time is spent watching the neighbors, gazing out the back of her home, across a green expanse, and into the homes of people who live across the green. Her watching is fairly mild, and not intended to be intrusive, she simply has this as a primary source of entertainment. While Augusta would likely deny the characterizations, she has come as close to being a recluse as anyone can who still travels for book-related activities.
The entertainment factor of her neighborhood watch turns into much more when the couple she primarily watches disappears, leaving their son behind with his grandparents. Questions arise, with everyone asking were they both kidnapped, was one kidnapped by the other, are they both dead? Augusta becomes intrigued by these questions and the desire to know, and plagued by having heard a short scream just prior to their disappearance which, when she finally tells the police about, they seem to pass off as unimportant
Deciding she needs to investigate, Augusta begins her own questioning of various people, enlisting the occasional help of her friend Misaki. She boldly wanders into homes and businesses where people who might be involved or who might know something can be found, and asks questions trying to discover what happened to the couple.
The book is told in a conversational style, as though Augusta is relating a lengthy story to the reader. There is little anxiety or violence throughout the book, rather a strong story that creates interest in the reader to find out what happens next. The pace is consistent, and the plot is well crafted and intriguing. The story draws the reader in, and it is easy to want to read just one more chapter, or two or three for that matter, before returning to the real world. While the reader can put it down and pick it up at leisure, it can stay in the back of the reader’s mind and offer a consistent tug back to the book as soon as possible. The pace does pick up in the final chapters of the book as Augusta closes in on the guilty parties. It is refreshing that she does not require a man to rush in and save her, at the same time the police detective who has been called in on the first cast does have a part in the successful conclusion of the situation.
I’ve read two other series written by Malliett, both of which took place in Europe, although that was the end of their similarity. This is the first series that I know about which takes place in the United States with American characters throughout. It is very entertaining, and demonstrates the ability of Maliett to create a wide variety of characters and locations. It is impossible to know where the series is headed, but I will be watching for the next book with eager anticipation. While the mystery is contained within this book, the reader may find themselves hoping to meet some of the secondary characters, such as the detective and Misaki, in future books.
My thanks to Severn House Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy for this review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
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