Professor Lexie Driscoll is conducting the first meeting of the Golden Age of Mystery book club in her best friend’s swanky mansion when another friend is murdered. More members are knocked off as Lexie unravels secret after secret, leading her to believe she’s living in Christie’s novel, And Then There Were None. Using Miss Marple’s knowledge of human nature and Hercule Poirot’s cunning, Lexie reveals the murderer.
Writing Is My Way of Life
Murder a la Christie is indeed an homage to Christie’s mysteries, particularly those featuring Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Like Christie’s novels, this is essentially a closed-circle mystery, in which the murderer is one of a small group of people. In this case, that circle is comprised of the members of a mystery book club and some of their family members. The book club’s leader, Lexie, is conveniently neither fully part of the group nor completely apart from it; her long-time best friend, Rosie, asked Lexie to lead the club, but as an English professor, Lexie is not part of the society of Old Cadfield, a wealthy suburban village on Long Island. As a semi-outsider, it’s easier for Lexie to be suspicious when Sylvia, one of the book club members, dies after experiencing severe stomach pain — especially since she had overheard Gerda, another member, threatening Sylvia before the meeting began.
Despite both skepticism and resistance on the part of her book club friends (and the occasional anonymous phone threat), Lexie is determined to find out who, if anyone, murdered Sylvia. But when a second member is murdered, and then a third, she has to wonder if she will be next.
Author Marilyn Levinson clearly knows and loves her Christie; in addition to the book club’s discussions, there are references to Christie mysteries throughout the novel. (Warning: if you haven’t read Christie’s best-known works, there are a few spoilers.) Lexie can be a bit pedantic about Christie’s books, particularly in her presentations to the book club, but that’s probably part of her professorial style.
Lexie narrates the story, so we get a pretty good look inside her head. She’s not an entirely likable character: she can be tactless (something Miss Marple almost never is, although Poirot certainly can be) and she’s drawn to and even more-or-less dating several men during the course of the novel, which is something of a pet peeve of mine but won’t bother everyone. On the plus side, Lexie is determined and has a strong sense of justice, and unlike the Old Cadfield contingent, she’s not willing to ignore the elephant in the room: at least one of their group is a murderer.
As in a good Christie mystery, almost everyone has a motive and opportunity for at least one of the murders, which makes Lexie’s self-imposed task all the more difficult — and the reader’s as well, of course. I will admit that I did not figure out the murderer before the reveal. I would say I’d at least considered the person, but since I considered everyone at some point (and I do mean everyone! This is after all a tribute to Christie, who was notorious for surprise endings), that admission isn’t worth very much!
Murder a la Christie is a fast, fun read for Christie fans. The story is entertaining, and I definitely wanted to find out whodunnit, but I was never completely swept up into the story as I am when reading Agatha Christie. Levinson’s writing comes across as a little stilted at times, particularly in some of the dialog. Most of the characters are interesting, however, and the author has left room to develop it into a series, so I suspect we’ll be seeing more of Lexie Driscoll and at least some of the inhabitants of Old Cadfield.
Category: Cozy mystery
Publisher: Dark Oak Mysteries
Release date: Feb. 26. 2014
Book source: I received a digital review copy via Great Escapes Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review.
About the author:
Marilyn Levinson, a former Spanish teacher, writes mysteries, romance, and books for children and young adults.
Her romantic suspense, DANGEROUS RELATIONS, is a love story entwined with an intriguing mystery. GIVING UP THE GHOST is an entertaining ghost mystery. A new edition of A MURDERER AMONG US, which won a Best Indie award from Suspense Magazine in 2011, and its sequel, MURDER IN THE AIR, are out with Untreed Reads this winter. A ghost, a mansion, and a feral Maine Coon cat feature in Marilyn’s most recent YA, GETTING BACK TO NORMAL. Three of her popular out-of-print children’s books, AND DON’T BRING JEREMY, NO BOYS ALLOWED, and RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK are now available as ebooks.
Marilyn is co-founder and past-president of the Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime. She lives on Long Island. (biography source: tour page)
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Read as part of the Cruisin’ Thru the Cozies challenge hosted by Socrates’ Book Reviews.