Book Review: The Smart Woman's Guide to Murder by Victoria Dowd


The Smart Woman's Guide to Murder
Victoria Dowd
The Smart Woman's Guide to Murder by Victoria Dowd
My rating: 3 stars 🌟🌟🌟
Publisher:  Joffee Books
I began loving this and in the end liked it. 

Ursula and her mother Pandora (not their real names and as yet not explained) had clear voices and some serious dysfunction between them. Add in Pandora's book group friends, Joy (called Less because she's Joy-less), Mirabelle (a tacky, cloying creature that'd give Grima Wormtongue a run for his money), Bridget (who is the only person who wants to discuss the book) with her dog Mr. Bojangles. and Aunt Charlotte (who I may have liked most of all). They all converge on country house Ambergris Towers for a weekend retreat to discuss books and have drinks (ok, mostly to have drinks). They're met by and attended to by the Angels, a caricature caretaker couple and very soon the Fortuneteller shows up and things take a murderous turn. Before too long the bodies are stacking up and it's turning into a real problem because a killer seems to be in their midst and this is already a group that has high levels of vitriol and low levels of trust and goodwill.

Leading the investigation and following the clues is Ursula who started off well. Sadly, she had some side issues that got in the way and took not just her off course, but this reader along with her. Her father's died years ago, you see and she's either never come to terms with it or completely raised him to godlike status in her mind. Whatever parts each comprises the result is that she's given to secretive drinking and something that's either panic attacks (I hoped) or melodramatics (as her descriptions are sometimes given to) or something slightly supernatural/paranormal. I admit to starting to lose interest in those parts, mostly because I'm not into supernatural or paranormal threads in my cozy mysteries. But there's never a clear explanation of what the problem is, we simply find out that she's also on medications. I found this aspect to be the weakest point of the story and of her narration and didn't enjoy it at all.

In the end, Ursula isn't the one to solve the mystery so that was a nice surprise and an interesting choice as she's our narrator and the one the story is built on. I found that a novel take. I felt a bit like the story switched from witty, acerbic modern cozy to something else somewhere along the way and I can't say I much liked that. I found I highlit most in the first half and I liked its tempo more than the latter half. But I liked it enough to read the next. Hopefully, some of the bothersome quirks (firsts in cozy series seem always to have them) get sorted.

Summary:  A faded country house in the middle of nowhere.The guests are snowed in.
The murders begin.

Withering and waspish, Ursula Smart (not her real name) gate-crashes her mother’s book club at an isolated country house for a long weekend retreat. Much to Mother’s chagrin. Joining them are Mother’s best friend, Mirabelle, Aunts Charlotte and Less, and Bridget with her dog Mr Bojangles. It doesn’t matter that they’ve read Gone Girl three times this year already, this retreat is their chance to escape bustling suburbia. But someone has other ideas.

A body is found in the grounds.

Is a lone killer hunting them? Or has one of their own group embarked on a killing spree?

What they need is to stop sniping at each other long enough to solve the mystery before the killer strikes again.

What they need is a guide to survive.

No comments