Break out your knives and forks, my literary foodies, as we have a particular treat to dig into today! Branded as a murder mystery with a chick-lit twist, the recipe for today’s dish was chosen as the winner of the 2016 Kindle Scout program, so we must be in for some high dining tonight, yes? A dash of mystery, the spice of a thrilling murder, and the flavor of women’s fiction, there should be a lot of promise here, especially with such a sterling superlative added to it. But will that turn out to be the case?
Before we solve that mystery, let us go through the files for the Starving Review regulations:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible
As with any mystery meal, we must sift through the culinary clues. Let us start with the foundations of any meal: characters, plot, and pacing.
Much of the strength of the chef’s recipe here is in the cast of quirky characters that litter Body. It is clear early on that the strategy here is to swerve towards the hyper-reality of a soap opera or teledrama over a more grounded setting and the characters do a good job reinforcing that feeling. Overall, I feel the main characters are treated well, taken a step beyond their primary ‘quirk’, but once we move past a few central personages, things start to get murky.
If I were to make a recipe diagnosis, this would be caused by the massive amount of named and important characters thrown at the reader. For such a compact meal, one has to choke down and try to digest an entire office full of characters, each given names, backstories, and a plethora of minor details. There’s a distinct impression that this is done in the service of world-building for an ongoing series, which is fine in and of itself, but it starts to cause a bit of indigestion near the middle of the book, fit to burst from trying to juggle so many characters and subplots.
This affects the plot and pacing as well. While the core mystery is interesting and well-laid out, there are so many subplots driving in, with almost every one of the half-dozen plus named characters having hidden secrets, dark histories, and bizarre quirks that struggle to be seen through the main plot. In a longer and more spaced out work, this could be intriguing and, to the chef’s credit, it’s handled as well as it could be for the size of the meal, but it adds to a sense of bloat and confusion in the later stages, as barely-characterized characters are suddenly thrust not only back into the main plot, but sometimes to positions of prominence, or given sudden moments to spout their backstory where it really doesn’t feel like it services the plot or the tension of the moment.
This also leads to some strange pacing issues, what I can only really describe as over-enthusiastic editing. It’s like watching a favorite movie where every scene smash cuts into the next scene about five seconds too early, giving you the feeling as if you missed some important bit or establishing shot. While nothing critical winds up being lost, there are moments of disorientation as one course is yanked off the table and another thrust before the diner, often with a clunky bit of dialogue telling us what we had just missed.
Does this mean that the end meal is a bad one? Well, no. Not precisely. There’s a great dose of quirky humor to be had here and the core mystery, as I said, is an interesting one (even if it is only really brought to the fore of the plot about half-way through). Our main heroine is well-laid out, understandable, and likable and I certainly see how, with all this clunky world-building crammed into this book that future volumes could be really good.
So to sum it all up, Take the Body and Run is a decent chick-lit mystery that would be great if it wasn’t overburdened with extra characters and subplots. If you’re a fan of chick-lit or murder mysteries, it is worth your time to check out if you have a spot on your reading list. However, if you prefer clean, focused plots and narratives or a story that focuses deeply on a small cast, there may be far too much side ingredients here to process and digest.
FINAL VERDICT: *** (A solid chick-lit mystery that would be great if it wasn’t overburdened with too many extra ingredients!)