Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Rules of Murder" Review

Drew Farthering is a young English gentleman living in 1930s England with his mother and step-father on a vast country estate. When his step-father’s niece, Madeline Parker, visits from America, Drew is instantly captivated by her. Before Drew and Madeline have much time to spend together, however, a double murder takes place on the property.

Drew has always liked a good mystery, especially those by Father Knox which follow a certain set of rules. Despite the warnings from the police to let them handle it, Drew is determined to do some sleuthing on his own. Enlisting the help of Madeline and his good friend, Nick, the threesome set out to uncover the mystery.

As more and more clues are uncovered, the more dangerous it becomes to be a resident at Farthering Place. And the more this mystery doesn’t follow any rules at all.

This novel intrigued me from the beginning because I thought it would be neat to read my typical type of novel (Christian historical fiction) that was also a mystery. I always like when a bit of suspense is thrown into historical novels, and since this one revolved entirely around the mystery, I thought I would give it a try.

The mystery portion of the book was good, but it did leave a little to be desired. In an English mystery there are always lots and lots of characters to keep up with, and this one was no different. For the most part, I was able to keep them straight, but there were a couple of times when I had to go back and find out, “OK, who was Clarke again?”

The best part of this book was the setting. Drew’s English estate was, of course, the perfect setting for a murder mystery, and the upstairs/downstairs feeling that comes from a novel in this time and place was appropriate. I also liked the banter among Drew and Madeline and Nick. The dialogue was so very English, and it was just fun to read.

While the mystery aspect of the novel was done fairly well, the romance and spiritual parts were very much awkwardly wedged into the story. The main characters themselves even admit that they have only known each other 11 days before they begin talking of love. Even in a historical novel, this was completely unbelievable for me. I have read other novels where the two main characters solve a mystery together or go through some tragic circumstances and, therefore, come to love each other rather quickly. But in those stories, the romance is woven throughout the other plots of suspense and/or tragedy. In Rules of Murder, the romance seemed to progress only during the ‘downtimes’ between when they were trying to solve the murders. It made for an up-and-down feeling throughout that slowed down pace of the entire novel. This was also true for the spiritual portion of the story. It seemed as if it was just tacked on for good measure.

Because the romance and spiritual portions were not fully fleshed out, I felt as if I wasn’t able to know or care about the characters as much as was intended. I wanted them to solve the mystery, and I wanted them to grow in their faith, but I didn’t really care if Drew and Madeline got together or not. Whenever I read a romance novel, I like to root for the main characters, and in this one, I was ambivalent.

Even though the story as a whole was a bit disjointed, it was interesting to just be along for the ride with Drew and his friends. It was kind of fun to discover that some things that I thought I had figured out were actually red herrings. The “rules of murder” piece was cute – it was funny when the mystery just didn’t want to follow the rules – although I was not familiar with Father Knox and his rules and would have liked to have had a list of them in the front of the book.

Rules of Murder is a fairly good murder mystery that takes place in a fantastic setting, and it would have been a lot better if it had just been left at that.

I will give Rules of Murder ... 3 BookWorms.

Rules of Murder
by Julianna Deering
A Drew Farthering Mystery
Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: September 1, 2013

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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