Monday, February 13, 2012

They Did it with Love by Kate Morgenroth

I admit that among my favorite genres to read, mysteries rank pretty high. They Did it With Love  is a good, old-fashioned murder mystery. It has all the right elements: multiple characters with opportunity and motive, red herrings galore, clever investigators, and the predictable, unpredictable twist.

Dean and Sofie Wright lead a comfortable life in Manhattan. After Sofie's father dies, Dean suggests that they might like a change in residency and move to the suburbs - Greenwich, Connecticut. When she agrees, he moves quickly and finds the couple a home in a neighborhood where everyone lives a very privileged life. The hallmark of acceptance is an invitation to the Mystery Book Club, which is extended to Sofie. Sofie just happens to be mystery buff and channels Agatha Christie and Miss Marple. At the book club meeting she meets Priscilla - married to Gordon, Susan - married to Henry, Ashley - married to Stewart, and Julia - married to Alex. The rules of the book club are indicative of a "Stepford Wife" mentality - no shoes in the house (all members have designer shoes just for book club wear), a book must be read in its entirety, and if a member becomes pregnant she must drop out. Priscilla is the most controlling of all the members and as the book progresses sets her sights on Dean. The reader knows that this isn't the only secret harbored by the members and spouses and, in addition, is acutely aware that they will be instrumental as the book unfolds.

But then, one of the book club members is found dead. Is it a suicide or murder?  The police investigation commences and Sofie, who firmly believes that it is murder, takes it upon herself to help the detectives in unraveling the mystery. Interviews are conducted, Sofie manipulates an ally, and eventually an arrest is made. Throughout this process the reader learns of the deviousness of some of the members and the secrets of others. 

This was a surprisingly, engaging mystery. It was a bit slow to start, especially when all the couples are are being introduced. Initially, it was hard to keep them straight, but soon Morgenroth's characterization gives the book club members and their spouses individual voices. The author paves a path to the solution, but with a few detours and roadblocks along the way, and, finally, completes the revelation in a most unexpected way. It is clear that Dame Christie is right when she asserts, "'Nobody knows anybody - not that well!'

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