Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Book Review: The Deep End by Julie Mulhern (The Country Club Murders #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and main characters
Cons: Supporting characters need some context; Ellison’s love life
The Bottom Line:
Finding corpse in pool
Introduces great series
Now I must read more

I’m glad I Jumped into this Series

I have been hearing about Julie Mulhern’s Country Club Murders series for years, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about it.  Yet, I kept putting off starting it since I keep telling myself to concentrate on finishing up series I’ve already started.  I finally gave in and picked up The Deep End, the first book, and now I’m kicking myself for not starting the series sooner.

The story takes place in 1974, and introduces us to Ellison Russell.  She is devoted to her teenage daughter, Grace, and her art.  She and her husband are still living together, but that is only because they have decided to wait to get divorced until Grace is out of the house.

Part of Ellison’s routine is a swim at dawn in the country club’s pool.  On this particular June morning, she swims into a dead body in the pool.  Worse yet, when the police arrive and pull the body out of the pool, she recognizes the victim as Madeline Harper, her husband’s mistress.  Ellison knows that she makes a pretty compelling suspect in the woman’s murder, as does her husband.  She knows she is innocent and she believes that her husband may be an adulterer, but he isn’t a killer.  However, the fact that he’s suddenly left town for parts unknown doesn’t make him appear innocent.  Can Ellison figure out what really happened to Madeline?

If you enjoy books that start with a bang, this book is definitely for you.  Ellison finds Madeline’s body within the first few pages, and the pace never lets up from there.  She uncovers secrets that rock her world and make her question things about the people she thought she knew.  And there is plenty of danger that compels Ellison to keep going to solve the crime.  I had no clue who was responsible for things until the end, yet when Ellison figures things out it makes perfect sense.

We’ve really just meant a core group of characters here.  Ellison is already a strong lead, and it is easy to feel for her as she uncovers secrets.  Likewise, the rest of the main cast is strong and help pull us into the world.  I did feel like we could have used a bit more context for who some of the supporting players are in Ellison’s world, but I’m sure we will get that as the series continues.

My other issue with the book was the fact that it set up a love triangle.  Now, I’m not opposed to the love triangle as long as it doesn’t drag on for books on end.  However, I felt like it was a bit inappropriate based on what was happening in Ellison’s life at this point in the series.  I’m sure by the time I pick up the next book in the series, I’ll be fine with watching her love life evolve.

And this book is funny.  I was grinning the entire way through as I read it.  Mostly, the humor comes from Ellison’s observations of the events as they unfold.  What is amazing is the way this book balances the tone.  It is funny without treating the very serious events as anything less than what they are.  Some scenes are dark, and they are treated as they should be.  In lesser hands, balancing these two tones would have come across as awkward at best, but here they blend together perfectly.

Speaking of tone, there are some elements to this book that definitely make it on the edges of what I would consider cozy.  I’m not going to say more since the elements are spoilers that are important to the plot.  They were still handled in a way that isn’t too graphic, but if you want your books to be perfectly clean, then this isn’t a book for you.  Just to be clear, I am highly recommending this book, so the content and how it was handled didn’t bother me at all.

Now that I’ve finished The Deep End, I have to figure out when I can go back in time and join Ellison for her next mystery.  After one book, I can already tell why this series has such a devoted following, and I can tell I will become part of it.

Enjoy more from the 1970's with the rest of the Country Club Murders.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! I'm a huge fan of the series but I actually haven't read this one - I started with book #2! The love triangle isn't my favorite thing but it is handled pretty well and it's one of the few I can tolerate.


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