Friday, August 7, 2015

Book Review: "See Also Murder: A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery" by Larry Sweazy

"See Also Murder: A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery" by Larry Sweazy
First published in 2015
250 pages
My rating: 2.5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short of It:
The unique main character and setting held promise, but the murder-mystery fell completely flat for me. Interesting story, terrible mystery. (I do love the cover, though!)

The Long of It:
As far as amateur sleuths go, Marjorie Trumaine is one of the most novel I've read about. In 1964, she lives with her husband, Hank -- who is paralyzed from the neck down after a hunting accident  -- on their rural North Dakota farm. To make extra money, she works as a professional indexer, creating indexes for the backs of nonfiction books, a perfect task for a booklover with an organized and analytical mind. Life has thrown a lot of challenges Marjorie's way, and her perseverance and take-it-as-it-comes attitude are admirable.

When her friends at the neighboring farm are horrifically murdered -- their throats slit while they slept -- Marjorie gets drawn into the into the investigation when the sheriff asks her to look into an element of Norse mythology found at the scene. Eventually, realizing she's the only person with all the pieces to the puzzle, she knows it's up to her to find the killer.

Interestingly, Marjorie creates an index to organize her thoughts when the time comes to solve the murder, which was completely new to me. I also liked that the book was set in a rural location in the '60s -- post-horse-drawn carriage and telegram, pre-computer -- which added an element of interest to the story. In this age of smartphones, can you imagine making a phone call on a party line where any of your neighbors could be listening in, with the quality of the call subject to the wind's swaying of the phone lines?

Unfortunately, despite the clever characterization and choice of location and time period, I didn't love this mystery in the end -- because the mystery didn't seem to be the focus of the story. It was like: meet Marjorie, indexer, farmer and wife to an invalid husband who, oh, just so happens to solve a string of grisly murders in her quiet North Dakota town. Hardly any detective work happened. And, once all was revealed, the killer's motive was barely explained and rather confusing. I didn't feel I got a satisfying conclusion to the mystery at all. I learned a lot about Marjorie, but not what drove a person to commit several murders.

I had a hard time choosing a rating for "See Also Murder." On the one hand, the writing was better than adequate (though there were a few times I was irritated by clumsy sentences or repetitive wording), Marjorie was an interesting and likeable main character, and the setting was unique. And I even learned something -- I really had no idea what goes into creating back-of-the-book indexes (and the author himself is a professional indexer by trade). But this book is advertised as a mystery -- it says so right in the title -- and I was wholeheartedly disappointed in that aspect.

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