Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Death Be Not Proud [or the best Jazz Age mystery in the history of ever]
This little beauty came in the mail last week, and after a happy Easter Sunday of worshipping and eating a tasty lunch with family, I cracked it open and polished it off. This is the third time I've polished off the story itself (the first couple of times by beta reading), and it's like a really good chocolate cake--better each successive time you eat it.
In fact, this is my favorite Rowntree fairy tale retelling thus far.
Moonshine liquor, jazz-fuelled dancing, and the risk of a police raid - these are all in a night's work for cabaret singer Ruby Black. But when a rugby star mistakes her for a dead girl, Ruby's life threatens to become briefer and more exciting than she bargained for. Two years ago, schoolgirl Wu Xue Bai was brutally murdered. Now, Ruby herself is in danger. Who killed Xue Bai? What lies behind Max Moran's obsession with the dead girl? And will Ruby learn the truth before secrets from her own past catch up with her? A fairytale retelling set in Jazz Age New Zealand, inspired by the thrillers of Mary Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock.
This is the kind of story that I most love. It's suspenseful and dramatic--the tension leading up to the climax makes you shiver, and the climax itself is a swooning, to-die-for masterpiece. From beginning to end, the pages just crackle with wit and suspense. Max and Ruby have the kind of couple chemistry that jumps off the page as you read it, and I adored them from the get-go. (Rugby player mourning dead girlfriend who keeps adorably rescuing a mysterious jazz singer? Yes, please.) With side supporting characters Kat and Bunny (aren't those fun names?) and the swell boss Bill Fisher, Ruby has everything she needs to help her figure out who murdered the mysterious dead girl and why it has to matter to her.
More things I liked? Stunning New Zealand scenery and vivid Jazz Age setting. This book does have alcohol and cigarettes in it to carry on the time period. While the story does not have an explicit Christian thread that's easy to find, its interplay of love and justice, accepting or abdicating responsibility, and hinted character arcs of maturity, offer plenty of food for thought.
But the best effect of this book is simply the sheer joy of it. It's a book that invites you to laugh, to hold your breath, to fear, to imagine, to strive for the solution. In short, it invites you into a myriad of intense emotions that any reader--every reader--wants to experience. It's a living jewel of a story, and perhaps the sheer aliveness of its characters is what I love about it so much.
Excited yet? You can order yourself a swanky new red paperback, and have it in all its delicious suspense to keep your bookshelves company. (Like that option? Click here or here.)
OR you can find it in a plummy collection of goodness with the rest of Suzannah's fairytale retellings in a new ebook collection here. (Also highly recommended, if you have not read them all yet.)
Extract the credit cards. If you order it now, you can probably relax with it by the weekend.