I thought this would be a perfect Christmas read, but, although I stuck with it for a month (far too long for a 368-page book), I couldn’t get through it.
Part of the problem was the pace. I was at the 47% mark before the investigation started, That’s 173 pages of scene-setting which, in my opinion, was at least 100 pages too many.
I assumed that things would pick up once the hunt for the killer began. This is a locked room mystery in an English Country House at Christmas, so it could have been a tantalising puzzle to solve under pressure. That’s not where Fiona Leith went with it though. Her story was stronger on cute than mystery, the pace was leisurely and there was no sense of threat. The tone felt more Scooby-Doo than Poirot. The appeal of the book depends on the reader liking the main character and her family. This is book four in a series with the same ensemble cast, so maybe there’s more to stand on if you’ve read the first three books, but I hadn’t.
I persisted with it for another fifty pages or so because it had been keeping me entertained in an ‘Afternoon TV’ way. I finally set it aside at the 60% mark when I realised I didn’t know who the murderer was or what their motive was or how they’d done the locked room trick and I didn’t care.
It wasn’t a badly written book. There was nothing that made me throw it down in disgust or anger or frustration. I just found it too dull to spend the time getting the end of.