Rules of Murder
About This Book
From the tip of his black Homburg to the crease in his cheviot trousers, he’s the epitome of a stylish 1930s English gentleman. His only problem? The body he just discovered.
Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate.
With the help of beautiful and whip-smart Madeline Parker, a guest from America, Drew proposes to use the lessons he’s learned reading his mysteries to solve the crime. Before long, he realizes this is no lark, and no one at Farthering Place is who he or she appears to be—not the butler nor blackmailer, the chauffeur nor embezzler. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer—and trying harder to impress Madeline—Drew must decide how far to take this dangerous game.
I read mysteries from time to time and enjoy similar genres in movies and TV shows (Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie, Midsomer Murders, and the like), but I wouldn’t say this is a book genre I actively read. But the very instant I saw this cover, I was in LOVE! Such a retro, Art Deco look is quite a departure for Bethany House, but it completely caught my eye and my interest. And if they were willing to try something different, why shouldn’t I? And I’m so glad I did—Rules of Murder has made me an instant and lifelong Julianna Deering fan!
I love that this book started out “slow” by today’s writing trends. Deering used the opening chapters to thoroughly introduce the characters and story world, my preferred method of establishing a hero’s status quo before suddenly that world into upheaval with the inciting incident—in this case, the first murder. The pace and flow were perfect in the opening chapters, with a great story world introduction that eventually launched one murder after another. But then it really stalled for me in the middle, especially with the Chief Inspector’s multiple long questioning-the-witness scenes, which felt a bit like backstory dumping. It took me a week to finish this book when a novel this size should’ve taken about four hours. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading it. . . but I didn’t always feel compelled to pick it up, either.
Admittedly, I was wary when the author first began to incorporate the faith element of the story, afraid it would be glaringly anachronistic and/or author-intrusive. But overall I was very pleased on this score. Drew was an accurate portrayal of the post-Christian mindset that befell Europe after World War One, but was never annoying. Nor was Madeline, the clearly-Christian girl. On the contrary, they both just lived their everyday lives and let their faith—or lack thereof—do the talking. And when Drew finally did lift in his eyes in prayer, it flowed seamlessly from the action of the story and wasn’t intrusive or preachy at all.
I really wish more Christian fiction portrayed Christians like this—honestly, simply. Not as heroes or saints, but as everyday people in the everyday world. I’d have no trouble recommending this book to my non-Christian family and friends because I know they won’t feel “preached at,” a perception that keeps much of today’s Christian fiction unfortunately trapped behind the sanctuary doors.
Perhaps it’s because I’m more used to suspense novels than cozy mysteries, and thus the genre dictated the more leisurely story pace. But I think it would have felt more compelling to me if Drew and Madeline had ever been in danger themselves. As it was, they discovered some grisly things, but never directly witnessed anything bad happening, nor were they ever directly threatened. But again, that may be due to a difference in genre.
If Bertie Wooster and Jessica Fletcher had a love child, it would be Drew Farthering. This story combined the cozy amateur sleuthing of Murder, She Wrote with the wit, opulence and panache of a P.G. Wodehouse comedy. Period detail and dialogue brought the story to life without bogging it down in an excessive display of research prowess. A perfect summer read for mystery and history lovers who like escape and entertainment without too high a body count.
Available August 1, 2013 from Bethany House Publishers