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Sister Mary Murderous

Favorite genres are traditional mystery, police procedurals, espionage, Eurocrime, literary fiction and nonfiction history, especially WW2 and Cold War.  I write about crime fiction at Read Me Deadly (www.readmedeadly.com)

Not even a little bit like Downton Abbey or Agatha Christie

Rules of Murder - Julianna Deering, DeAnna Julie Dodson

On Amazon (and presumably elsewhere), this book is hyped as:


"Downton Abbey Meets Agatha Christie in This Sparkling Mystery"


I was looking for a new audiobook and picked this one because I enjoy 1930s Golden Era mysteries, and Simon Vance is an excellent audiobook reader. It had its moments, but it lacked the kind of atmosphere, tightly-constructed plots and three-dimensional characters of Agatha Christie. And comparing it to Downton Abbey is just a transparent and false marketing ploy. Other than being set in an English country house, there are no similarities whatsoever to Downton Abbey.

The main theme of the novel is that young Drew Fathering and his friend Nick are ardent crime fiction readers and want to use the detection skills they believe they've gained from their reading to solve the murders that take place at Fathering's country house. They have a running joke that the crime seems to be violating Ronald Knox's classic 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction. And yes, it does, but that's not as amusing or clever as the author seems to think, especially when one of the rules is that "No Chinaman must figure in the story." Not only does the author break that rule, but she has the man be "inscrutable" and speak in a stereotypical accent straight out of the old Charlie Chan movies. No, I'm not kidding.

The whodunnit, or at least a big piece of it, was obvious--glaringly obvious--from very early on. That's bad in itself, but it becomes downright frustrating when the characters stumble and bumble their way toward discovering what the reader has known for many chapters.

The author creates her 1930s atmosphere by sprinkling it with "I say old man," "bally" "deuced" and other vernacular, watercress sandwiches, cream tea and Buck's Fizz and so on. It felt like she used some sort of contemporary-to-1930s dictionary and felt that doing that would somehow transport the book back to the Golden Age of mystery. That didn't work. The author's name is a pseudonym and I don't who she really is, but from the way this book reads, I'd guess she's an American trying to sound like she's British.

Finally, it would be helpful to all prospective buyers if the product description made it clear that this is a Christian-oriented novel. It came as a complete surprise to me. I can only think that those looking for Christian fiction would appreciate having that as part of the product description, and those who don't want that feature would appreciate the advance notice for different reasons. The cynic in me thinks that the marketers left this out of the product description and stuck in the misleading comparisons to Agatha Christie and Downton Abbey intentionally, to avoid limiting the book's sales to a niche readership.