Like many people, this year I’ve been more than usually interested in books that are comforting, but of course what feels comforting is different for different people – along with Jane Austen and Barbara Pym, for me one of the most soothing types of book are murder mysteries. I like the predictable structure, the ultimate triumphing of good over evil (all too rare in real life), and seeing the ways that different authors stretch and interpret the standard ideas of the genre. Unfortunately for me, much of the time, Sally Hepworth’s The Mother In Law felt less like a murder mystery and more like an entry in my least favorite genre, Rich People Arguing.
So, the plot: Diana is a wealthy older woman. Her death initially looks like a suicide, but then the police discover additional evidence suggesting she may have been murdered. Suspicion turns on the generation following her: her son and daughter and their spouses. The story shifts between the past and the present, and between the points of view of Diana and her daughter in law, Lucy. Diana and Lucy have a difficult relationship, and the alternating POV structure allows for a better understanding of how conflicts can grow out of misunderstandings, even when everyone involved is acting in good faith and doing what they think is best. Diana’s reluctance to give her children money is the source of much of the conflict, and money is of course a classic motive for murder. The plot had some good twists, and the characters were believable and well-drawn, but ultimately I couldn’t get into this book as much as I would have liked.
One other quick note (not really a spoiler): There is a lot of discussion of infertility in this book, so if that’s a sensitive topic for you, this might be a good one to skip.
This is my final entry for this year (lucky number 13!) and brings me to the quarter cannonball that I signed up for. It was more difficult getting there than I anticipated, but I want to thank all of you for letting me join you community. I’ve enjoyed reading the posts and comments and CBR has been a bright spot in a tough year.