Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong story and characters
Cons: Ellison’s Mother at times
The Bottom Line:
Football game murder
Ellison on a mission
Guaranteed to Entertain
It quite often takes me longer than I intend to return when I discover a new series I enjoy. I really did plan to return to Julie Mulhern’s Country Club Murders earlier, but I just have too many books calling my name. (It might help if I’d stop beginning new series, but that’s beside the point.) Anyway, I finally made the time to read Guaranteed to Bleed, and I enjoyed it.
It’s September 1974, and Ellison Russell is back in Kansas City. This particular Friday night, she’s at a high school football game, crowded into the stands. She’s not a fan, but her daughter, Grace, is a cheerleader, so Ellison is there to support her. Unfortunately, that also leads Ellison to discovering a dying teen.
Bobby Lowell uses his dying breath to beg Ellison to “Tell her I love her.” Ellison isn’t sure who “her” is. This murder is once again hitting too close to home as Bobby and Grace had grown up together. Ellison doesn’t plan to get involved in solving the murder, but as she tries to fulfill Bobby’s dying words, she stumbles on suspects and motives. Will she find the mysterious woman? Will that lead her to the killer?
The book starts quickly, reintroducing us to Ellison and her life while also setting up the story. Because Ellison isn’t trying to solve the murder, the plot unfolds a little differently than most mysteries. However, there is plenty of story and conflict. I was never bored, and the further I went into the book, the more I had to know what was going to happen next. Everything is resolved by the time we reach the final page.
Ellison is a sympathetic main character. I love her, and I can’t help but want the best for her. Because of what is happening here, we see some good growth in her, which I also enjoyed. The rest of the cast are strong, and I like most of them. Ellison’s mother annoys me with her focus on always doing or saying the right thing and not allowing for life to get in the way. Fortunately, most of the time she comes across as amusing more than annoying.
There’s a fine balance here between comedy and drama. There are moments and lines that made me smile if not laugh. However, the murder hits very close to home, and Ellison is going through some other serious things. These different tones mesh well together, and I found it made the book richer.
The book delves into some darker issues than in a typical cozy, approaching PG-13 territory. Just know that going into the book, and you’ll be fine since it doesn’t get into detail on any of these issues.
Some of the things Ellison is dealing with here are fallout from the first book in the series. I highly recommend you read the earlier book first since there will be some spoilers and a few other things will make more sense.
I’m glad I made the time to read Guaranteed to Bleed. The characters and story captivated me once again. Hopefully, it won’t be quite as long before I am able to return and visit Ellison again.
Enjoy more from the 1970's with the rest of the Country Club Murders.