Hazel Rose never dreamed that the murder mystery book group she and her friend Carlene started would stage a real murder.
Nevertheless, the normally composed Carlene is unusually angry and rattled one night during a book group discussion and dies after drinking cyanide-spiked tea. Despite a suicide note, Hazel is skeptical; Carlene never seemed suicidal—she was busy making plans for her future. Incidentally, Carlene was married to Hazel’s ex-husband, and Hazel has always suspected there might be something more to her past than she let on.
How much does anyone really know about Carlene Arness? And did she die by her own hand or someone else’s? Hazel begins a search for the truth that produces no shortage of motives, as she unearths the past that Carlene took great pains to hide. And most of those motives belong to the members of her very own book group…
For fans of: Ellery Adams’ Books By The Bay Mysteries
The murder mysteries Hazel Rose typically puzzles over are of the fictional variety, but when fellow book-group member Carlene Arness keels over dead at one of their meetings, Hazel can’t help but investigate. Not only did she essentially witness the woman’s death, but Carlene was both a friend and the current wife of her former husband, to boot. At first blush, Carlene appears to have committed suicide, but Hazel doesn’t buy that for a second – which means it’s quite likely that one of the group’s own is to blame.
Murder at the Book Group is the first of Maggie King’s Book Group Mysteries, and I can guarantee it’ll be the last I read in the series. I did not enjoy this book. Murder at the Book Group gets off to a slow, clumsy, convoluted start and only goes downhill from there. At 400 pages, it’s too long by half. The prose is clunky and contains far too many superfluous details, slowing the (already glacial) pace and detracting from the (already muddy) plot. The narration is dull, disjointed, and full of boring digressions. All of the characters’ backstories are revealed in excruciating detail via dense blocks of text. There’s too much dialogue (none of which rings true) and not enough action, and too many scenes do too little to forward the plot. King never establishes any sort of stakes, making it impossible to care about the outcome. There are way too many characters and none of them are terribly well developed, making it all the more difficult to keep track of who’s who. All of the relationships lack authenticity, and everyone’s both too nosy and feels compelled to dramatically over-share. The denouement is anticlimactic and ridiculous, and while I like the facts of the mystery’s solution, it isn’t earned.
It pains me to write this harsh a review, but I had to force myself to read through to the final page. If you ask me, Murder at the Book Group is a good idea that’s very poorly executed. A deep and thorough edit might have saved this book, but as it stands, I suggest you take a pass.
Reviewed by Kat