So, this year, I’m really stepping up my reading game and have committed to doing Goodreads’ Reading Challenge (20 books for 2020…I know for some, that’s not a lot of books, but I’m a slow reader. And a writer who likes to actually write. So, I figure it’s a fair number). In addition to the Goodreads’ challenge, I’ve joined The 2020 Cozy Reading Challenge on Facebook, where they’ve picked a selection for four or five cozy mysteries to read each month throughout the year. From the very first book I’ve read as part of the challenge, I’m certainly glad I did!
A DEATH AT EASTWICK by L.C. Warman can be described, simply (in my opinion) as brilliant. Ingenious. Extremely well-written and thought out. The characters were rich and multi-dimensional, and while some were almost caricature’s reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Aunt and Uncle, the similarities really worked. Very well, in fact. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The story starts out with the presumably natural death of John Eastwick, Sr. John Junior is summoned home from a prestigious college to their sprawling ancestral mansion in St. Clair (the state is never expressly mentioned that I can recall, but that’s okay despite the fact that you’re given the sense that St. Clair is a character all in itself). As if the death of his father wasn’t bad enough, scandal breaks out soon after the funeral home regarding accusations that John, Sr. had bribed officials to get his son into college. This revelation is the beginning of John, Jr’s doubts about the type of man his father was from the start (John, Sr had a reputation for being hardworking, honest, and rigid in his integrity, so with news of the bribe, John, Jr is now wondering what sort of man his father really was).
Then, comes the reading of the will. And there’s a HUGE surprise revealed. John, Sr’s estate is to be distributed evenly among his wife and son, as well as his chef, his secretary, his attorney, and his greedy, conniving brother, sister-in-law, and (very likable) nephew. With everyone in shock and the hour getting late, the guests who were there for the will reading are invited to spend the night in the luxurious mansion that now, according to the will, belongs to each of them equally.
Since this is a murder mystery at heart, naturally, someone is murdered, and the rest of the occupants of Eastwick are now suspects. Now, the fun really begins!
But this is where the story gets absolutely brilliant as well. I don’t know how Ms. Warman did it exactly. My mind boggles at it, honestly. You see, unlike most cozies or mysteries in general, this book did not have a centralize sleuth trying to solve it. Even more amazing is that you had numerous scenes from the points of view of every cast member (remember, every cast member was suspect). When I first noticed this, I thought to myself, “Oh, this isn’t going to end well. This is going to be one of those stories I hate where you know who the killer is right away and follow the detective as he/she pieces the story together.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. The brilliant thing about this story is that Ms. Warman allowed us to be inside the heads of each suspect throughout the tale, and provide us with nuggets of data (some legit and some red herrings), and yet not overtly give the killer away at all.
Yes, you can indeed solve this mystery as you read (I did…at the perfect time, by the way (although I had my suspicions earlier on, I wasn’t sure until one critical piece of information was obtained…which is the way ALL mysteries should be written)), but you have to pay attention. You have to think, question, and discard weak theories.
Technically, I can’t really view this as a ‘cozy mystery’ per se due to the lack of a central amateur sleuth. In fact, it’s more of a traditional mansion murder mystery reminiscent of Agatha Christie, but unlike any she has ever written (to my knowledge).
Seriously, this book might just have moved up to the top 10 of my favorite murder mysteries of all time, and I can’t wait to read book two.
If you’re interested, check her book out on Amazon HERE.