Because I was sick the weekend before last, I didn’t feel up to blogging and so didn’t officially sign up for the Mystery Readathon (even though I really wanted to do it). However, I did unofficially participate, finishing one mystery and reading two thirds of another.
The first mystery I read was Too Many Questions (also published under the title Flynn) by Lesley Grant-Adamson. Unfortunately, this was one of those books that I mostly finished just to say I had: I was sick and couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed to pick out another book, plus I was hoping that a satisfying ending would make up for the somewhat lacklustre plot. The story revolves around two main mysteries. First, what happened to private investigator Laura Flynn’s client? Fashion designer Kate Mullery hired Laura to look into a possible business connection and then disappeared without paying her. Second, what happened to Laura’s father, who walked out on her family when she was four? Add to those the odd coincidence that both Laura and Kate were receiving threatening anonymous phone calls. My problems with the book were twofold:
(1) The ways the mysteries connected (or didn’t) seemed contrived and unconvincing, and (2) much of the plot revolved around real estate deals rather than emotional connections between people, so in the end I didn’t really care. I picked up the book because I’d enjoyed The Dangerous Edge by the same author. I recommend reading that one instead.
The second book I started was Until It’s Over by Nicci French and I was immediately engrossed in it. The story is about Astrid Bell, a bicycle courier who lives with six other people in a big house in a somewhat seedy part of London. Astrid is bad luck to the people around her: first she is one of the last people to see her neighbour alive before the woman is found bludgeoned to death, and then she shows up at a wealthy client’s house to pick up a package, only to find the woman murdered.
The set-up of this mystery reminded me of other great mysteries written by UK writers (A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine and The Likeness by Tana French both come to mind) who also mine the creepiness potential of having a group of youngish people who may or may not know each other very well living together in a big house.
[Warning: I reveal something about the structure of the this book in the next paragraph, which is plot-related.]
I don’t know why but it took me a long time to figure out that this was a psychopath / serial killer story. I’ve mentioned before (perhaps ad nauseam) that I don’t enjoy reading such books, but I’ve never explained why. Generally, a good mystery keeps me up half the night and may creep me out a bit but when I’m done reading it, I can close the book and leave that world behind. Unfortunately, psychopaths tend to follow me out of the book, and I get to thinking about the possibility of running into one of these people in real life. (After all, they supposedly make up 1% of the population.) I start to look at the people around me on the subway with suspicion. I feel nervous when walking home alone at night. Mysteries are supposed to be escapist, not to scare me for real. Having said that, when I do stumble into a book inhabited by a psychopath, I generally find it’s better to finish reading the book—that knowing what happens in the end (and in most mysteries, the killer is caught) helps me leave the story behind when I’m done. Until It’s Over has an unusual structure in that two thirds of the way in, the killer is apprehended. (Or is he?) I stopped reading at this point because I realized that part 2 of the book is written from the killer’s point of view. I’m tempted to read the rest—I have this irrational feeling that Astrid remains in danger as long as I don’t finish the book (and it is an engrossing read!). But do I want to delve into the mind of a psychopath? Will it be worth it just to know what happens in the end? I’m not sure.
Have you ever started a mystery and felt like you needed to finish it even though it was either not that interesting or scaring you? What would you do in my shoes?
To read other (less spoilerish) reviews of Until It’s Over, visit these blogs:
Euro Crime • Reading Matters
I bought Too Many Questions by Lesley Grant-Adamson. Thank you to Donna at BookBound for giving me Until It’s Over by Nicci French.