Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Murder at the Book Group (Book Group Mystery #1)

Author:  Maggie King
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars
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. 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. 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...
 Hazel Rose isn't your usual protagonist.  She, and her friends, are in their mid-50's (or thereabout), and she has been married four times and widowed once.  Her first ex-husband, Evan, is married to Carlene, the woman with whom Hazel started a book group for writers and aspiring writers.  When during one of their meetings Carlene goes off on a rant and is later found dead of drinking poisoned tea, Hazel puts her sleuthing abilities to work to unmask the killer.  The problem is, it is probably someone in the group, since they were the only ones who had access to Carlene's tea.  But the question is, which one?

As Hazel probes into the mystery she finds out more than she expected.  Carlene, as she called herself, has gone by many other names in the past, and she certainly wasn't the type of person that everyone thinks she was.  Soon it's apparent that everyone in the group had reason enough to dislike Carlene, but is any of it enough of a motive for murder?

The plot of this book grew more twisted with every page.  What at first seemed to be the usual plotline of a murder, and finding out the killer, it was so much more:  Not only did nearly everyone who knew Carlene dislike her for one reason or another, we found out about Carlene's unsavory past and the ties she held to everyone in the group.  What appeared to be upfront wasn't always so; there were enough secrets and plot twists to keep even the most seasoned reader interested.  I, for one, had no problem keeping all the suspects straight, but then again, I have an analytical turn of mind, so it was pretty easy for me.  But be aware that there are many potential suspects, as some may find this off-putting.  Too many suspects and people might give up finishing the book.  However, I believe you'll find it enjoyable if you persevere.  This book follows the old adage, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."  They couldn't be any closer than this.

I hesitate to give away any more of the plot, allowing the reader to decipher the clues along the way as I did.  When we finally find out the truth, it is quite believable, and highly enjoyable.

Ms. King has a wonderful voice in mysteries, and I for one, can't wait for the further adventures of Hazel and her friends.  Recommended. 

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