Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mud, blood, and housekeeping: Brilliant Disguise (Edwards)

Mary Anne Edwards, Brilliant Disguise: A Charlie McClung Mystery (The Charlie McClung Mysteries Book 1)

This murder mystery begins with two arresting sentences:

"Marian painted her face with dark green clay.  Leaning toward the wide bathroom mirror, she made sure every bare spot was covered."

And as soon as I read them, I inwardly begged the author (please, please) to break the paragraph and just let this image hover!  It's unsettling, even a bit macabre, isn't it-- this mundane act of concealment?  And what follows highlights its importance:  Hearing gunshots and screaming, Marian Selby hurriedly wipes off her mask and rushes outside, where she confronts both a tragic loss and a man she'll come to love.

But love wasn't her goal.  She's holding herself together.  Barely.

Marian Selby is gradually revealed as a very interesting character-- a well-heeled widow who staunches her grief with set routines, self-care, and the cultivation of order.  Beautiful self, beautiful house, beautiful table, beautiful garden... She cares for others, too, volunteering for a special needs program, gifting cookies and roses to neighborhood children, and investing in a few close friendships.

For me, Brilliant Disguise's main pull was discovering what Marian will do when this protectively ordered world is rocked.  It's all about the conflict between her deliberate perfection and that mess beyond her door, threatening to invade... The book's second half really delivers, offering a poignant scene (I cried!) and a terrifying climax.

Bottom line?  This psychologically-driven mystery kept me reading!  The writing is good, but (I think) could have been still better-- sharper, more focused-- so as to show off the story's fine bones.  As this is only the first in a series of Charlie McClung novels, I look forward to picking up the next installment.

I purchased my copy of Brilliant Disguise (Kindle edition) through Amazon.