This is the ultimate read for those who love a peek behind the curtains!
Sofie and Dean have moved from Manhattan to suburban Connecticut, an exclusive address, and one much to former bookseller Sophie’s delight, where there is a book club to join. Maybe if she knew what was going to happen next, she’d have reined in that enthusiasm a bit! Well to be fair she doesn’t seem too sure once she meets the other book club members, especially as the leader, Priscilla forgot to inform her that she needs a pair of shoes to be worn exclusively indoors, for book club meetings, on account of her white carpets and furniture complete of course, with a maid to serve cups of tea, which of course must on no account be spilled.
Priscilla is married to Gordon, a much mousier man than his bossy and controlling wife and within a moment of meeting her the state of her marriage is apparent:
Priscilla saw no hope. What she saw was her husband, Gordon sleeping beside her. Just looking at him she felt a surge of irritation. She’d reached the point where everything about him irritated her.
Susan is Priscilla’s best friend who has suspicions about what her own husband, Harry is up to but Priscilla is better at complaining about the neighbours than she is to being sympathetic:
‘Nothing,’ Priscilla repeated firmly. ‘If you kick up a fuss you’ll just drive him away. Besides, this kind of thing happens all the time.’
‘I know… but not to me and Harry,’ Susan said plaintively.
‘Apparently it does.’
Meanwhile Ashley second wife of Stewart has only been admitted to the Mystery Book Club because of her husband’s connections, they had preferred Pam the first wife! One of the newest members of the book club, before Sofie’s arrival is Julia, whose husband Alex has got some ladies in the neighbourhood hot under the collar.
And then there is a murder…
This was a far better read than I anticipated with the book club meetings and various social drinks and dinners underpinning the book which I read with half-shocked amusement both sexes puffed and preened and jostled for position. The book chapters are entitled by the month, and almost always start with anxiety not to meet Priscilla’s wrath for not reading her choice of book. Sofie is exempt, being a true-book lover and already having acquitted herself quite nicely with her quiet confidence around the subject of mystery novels, has been accepted, whether she likes it or not. Further prompts are given throughout the chapters about the characters appearing, which is helpful with so many Stepford wife types.
The murder of course means that the focus switches to the detectives and as each household is questioned more secrets are uncovered.
‘I remember the interview, but for the life of me, I can’t remember which one she was. All the women out here look the same to me – every one is blonder and thinner than the next. It’s creepy.’
The husband of the murder victim wants Sofie’s help as she has already provided some clues, he badly wants the detectives to stop focussing on him, and Sofie feels this is something worthy of her attention. After all she is intrigued and sees an opportunity to emulate her heroine Miss Marple, decides to find the truth. So alongside the official investigation we have the amateur detective chatting to the other neighbours to try to uncover the events that led up to the killing.
With red herrings and misdirection aplenty this moves from being a fairly amusing book about spoilt housewives with far too much time on their hands, to a tightly plotted tale which never loses its sense of humour as so many secrets escape and when the truth is out, it would seem like life in their exclusive street will never be the same again.
This is a hard book to categorise, it is I suppose a fairly gentle mystery, possibly edging towards a cosy, but whatever it is, it kept me thoroughly entertained. The inclusion of The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie means that imagining how Miss Marple would perhaps behave if she was transported to twenty-first century wealthy Connecticut, is perhaps inevitable.