For a large portion of These Pandemic Times, I’ve been in a phase where all I can read are mystery stories and Maeve Binchy. This state of mind is reminiscent of when I was pregnant with my first child and read only Agatha Christie and the occasional Western. There was already a lot going on for my brain to deal with, and I needed something with pretty clear good guys and bad guys. I needed a fun puzzle that wasn’t going to stress me out, something fun and roller coaster-y, a little adrenaline and few emotional stakes.
It was a very similar story during quarantine. Mysteries were an immediate go-to, especially since so many of them were available for really cheap on a Kindle. (Fun Early-Q story- for the last two weeks of March 2020, I could not find my Kindle. I felt like Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone, and I was very loud with my self-pity. My husband found it for me in a place I should have looked! Great memories!) So I read about a hundred $2.99 Kindle offerings of varying qualities, many of which claimed to be reminiscent of Dame Agatha. And they sure weren’t all winners! One of the books I was meh about was by Ruth Ware, and this was my second meh Ruth Ware experience. So although this kept coming up as recommended, the claims of being a modern spin on Agatha Christie and perfect for fans of Ruth Ware failed to move me. (Plus, it cost $13.99 on Kindle, which, after paying three bucks for most of my reading material, seemed outrageously expensive! What a weird thing money is. Anyway.)
But I kept hearing great things, and thanks to a fortuitous confluence of having a bunch of Audible credits, being tired of all my podcasts, and needing to do a big cleaning project, I figured I’d give this a shot. And I’m so glad I did, because I really enjoyed this! It’s beautifully atmospheric and I felt like the plot moved along at a nice pace. There are plenty of twists and turns, some great red herrings, and I didn’t feel like there were a bunch of loose ends that never got tied up. I would even go so far as to say that the Agatha Christie comparison is right on!
The book takes place on a little island off the coast of Connemara in Ireland, where a high profile wedding between two egomaniacs (this is not a spoiler) is taking place. And a horrible storm comes, and a lot of them are horrible people, and they’re trapped there, and everybody’s drunk, and all kinds of secrets come out, and holy smokes! If I sound breathlessly excited it’s because I really had so much fun with this story. Each chapter is from the perspective of a different main character, and I found they were defined enough that I didn’t get confused. Some of the peripheral characters can blend together but it didn’t bother me. In fairness I was listening to the audiobook, and the narrator did a great job of changing her voice just enough so that each character was distinctive. (Cool bonus to the audio version, you won’t be in doubt about how to pronounce the name Aoifa!)
There’s all kinds of drama and hidden connections and passive aggressive nastiness, and in a mostly fun way. But I do want to tell you that there are a few sad elements here. You’re not going to be sad about the person who gets murdered in this book, trust me. But there are some truly sad backstory elements that are discussed. There was one thing in particular that really got to me just because of my personal circumstances, and it didn’t wreck me like some books do, but it did make me very sad and I’m tearing up a bit now thinking about it. Just a heads up. Sometimes I just want to read a mystery and not risk feeling something, if that makes sense. So if that’s where you are at right now, you may want to save this for a time when you’re feeling a bit stronger. Otherwise, dive in!
The only problem is- and is this even a problem?- I figured out the who did it and the why they did it long before the book revealed it. I even figured out who the victim was pretty early on, although that’s not explicitly revealed until close to the very end. So does that mean this mystery book wasn’t mysterious enough? Because I will be honest, I almost never figure out the ending ahead of time, unless it’s just kind of a subpar book. This however was not a subpar book, so I’m confused! I’m wondering, do you, my fellow readers, often figure out the mystery before the end? If so, does that affect your opinion of the book or the writer? In this case it didn’t diminish my enjoyment at all, if anything maybe it increased it, because I felt like a super genius! (I just read her other book and came nowhere close to figuring out jack squat before the end. I guess my super genius power was short-lived.)