I feel like I haven’t posted any themed posts for a while. Lately the posts I put out have been mainly regular ones, like wrap ups and readathons. So here is a little something to showcase three books from a genre that I have always enjoyed reading, and that I have consciously tried to read more of this year: mystery novels. In this post I will try and compare different themes discussed in these three books and tell you which one you should read.
The Retreat by Mark Edwards
The Retreat is a novel about a horror writer, Lucas, who goes in a remote mansion to do a writer’s retreat with a handful of other writers. This retreat was held by the owner of the house, Julia, who has a dark past. The mystery ensues as Lucas weaves a friendship with Julia and tries to discover how her husband and daughter mysteriously died in a nearby lake.
This novel is a combination of mystery, a hint of paranormal, and lots of suspense. With a slower plot pace and a small cast of characters with each their own traits, the star of the book is of course the two main characters in the book, Lucas and Julia.
Mark Edwards’s writing style is really enjoyable – he writes with long narratives but not too descriptive or lyrical. And during action-packed moments he was able to intrigue the readers, while during slower moving parts he was still able to convey the mood surrounding the characters. He’s great at capturing the moment and the feel of the moment, especially in emotional and interesting scenes.
Overall, with a great mystery and premise and interesting characters, added with the great resolution in the end and the pleasant writing style, The Retreat is never a boring read, and would make a great thriller novel to read in the winter days.
Read it if you enjoy:
- mysteries focusing on a small amount of characters,
- secluded places surrounded by nature,
- unpredictable plot twist,
- themes of family, lost children, grief, etc, and
- a combination of slow-paced and quick action-packed moments
The Hidden Legacy by G. J. Minett
This novel in comparation to The Retreat is definitely more slow paced in story. This tells about our main character Ellen, a recently divorced single mother who mysteriously received news that an old woman she has never met has died and in her will has given Ellen her cottage. Layered over this main narrative is another subplot set twenty years ago about a mentally challenged teenager who killed his classmates in a gruesome way. How are these two stories related? You’ll have to read to find out!
What I liked about this novel is that the premise of the story is quite unique, and that I’ve never read anything remotely similar to this story before. It also deals with a lot of difficult and interesting themes throughout the novel, such as family issues, ethics, problems in society, and so much more.
The characters in the novel never really stood out to me in any way. The storyline jumps back and forth between various characters and different timelines that quite makes everything confusing. Furthermore, what I didn’t like about the book was the writing and the pacing. Everything felt not exhilarating enough for me to be excited to read the book, and a lot of the parts were overly long. It was mostly slow and involves small reveals of information one by one. Though I usually have no complaints about slow books, this one just felt too dragged out, and it didn’t grip me all the time. Though the story overall was not horrible, it just wasn’t as captivating a mystery as I had hoped.
So read this book if you enjoy:
- slow-paced stories focusing on the details,
- difficult social themes,
- unique premises,
- different POV and different timelines, and
- long-winded mysteries
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
This novel by Attica Locke is probably all POC, mystery reader’s must-read book. Set near New Orleans, it centers around Caren Gray, a manager of a plantation and the story starts with a death of a woman in the premises of where she worked. This book was something different than anything I’ve ever read and is so much more than just a mystery novel.
The character is probably the highlight of the novel for me. The main character Caren is very flawed and human, with an interesting personality. Not only that, the mystery surrounding this story was very influenced by the history of the place, involving the black people history in Louisiana and a lot of American past with emphasis on the social and economical aspects. The main character being black, and the rich family owner of Belle Vie being white, also the fact that the murdered woman was an immigrant, added another layer of solemnity and a sense of importance in the discovery of the murderer in the story.
With a great writing style that is not slow and never boring, the book has scenes that were laid out wonderfully, focusing on not only the mystery of the murder but also the characters, the setting, and the social themes.
All in all this book was very well put together, and had an important story to tell. It was not just a mystery novel, it’s so much more, and it taught me a lot about black history and American history in general, as someone who was never really familiar with it – especially the history in Southern USA. The story was intriguing from the beginning till the end, and the social aspects surrounding the story, added with the amazingly written characters made the book such an enjoyable read.
Read it if you are looking for something with:
- a mystery novel not focusing too much on the mystery,
- a badass black woman main character,
- well written characters that feel very human,
- and a unique look into American history
So from all three books I mentioned here, you probably can decide yourself which one is more of your thing. Each person has different preferences of course, so I hope this little post helps you pick out your next favourite mystery read! Until next time, and don’t forget to drop by in the comments to let me know your thoughts on these novels.