Time for another review! Wahoo!
In Lia Fairchild’s “A Hint of Murder” anthology, the whodunit mystery is taken to a new level. Fairchild manages suspense like a pro, revealing everything in a way that still left me guessing what exactly the outcome would be. The stories are short but well-written and intriguing enough that I read all three in one sitting. The clues are all there, and there’s an AHA! moment when the outcome is revealed. Even I couldn’t figure out who the killer was in two of the stories until the ending. This, in my humble opinion, is the sign of a great mystery writer: someone who can lay all the cards on the table yet keep the reader guessing and – most importantly – reading.
The anthology consists of three short stories. The first is about an author who descends into madness. The second details killings at a hospital, where nearly everyone has a potential motivation to kill. The third combines the seedy underworld with one of mankind’s oldest motivations to commit murder. All three stories have red herrings among the suspects, people I really wanted to be the killers but who weren’t.
All three stories also share a common detective team that’s working the cases. I thought this was a great idea, because there were characters I could take with me from story-to-story and learn more about while I met the flawed people and glimpsed the broken worlds of those involved in the murders. The detectives, Frank and Lewis, were colorful and unique, and they didn’t fall prey to the stereotypical detectives I’ve read in other books. I loved their exchanges and how Fairchild portrayed the connection they had from years of working together while maintaining each man’s unique perspectives. I found myself grinning every time Frank came along in the story.
I have to say that what impressed me most was Fairchild’s ability to frame the events and the mindset of her characters without unnecessary prose. It’s difficult to create a new world with new characters in a novel let alone in a short story and balance the need for both exposition and brevity. I suspect Fairchild’s true gift is the economical use of effective words, especially in the creation of her characters.
And I loved her characters, all of them. Fairchild could bring a character to life with one sentence in a way that made me smile. Their motivations were unique, their backgrounds diverse and even their word choices in dialogue different. Not all of them were honorable or decent, but I could connect to each of them. Even better – I felt like I’d always known all of them, which is rare when I read a book. There’s usually a cardboard character or two in most books I’ve read whose name I don’t bother to remember, because the character’s addition to the story felt forced or like an afterthought. I didn’t have that sense in any of these stories. I left the stories feeling as if I’d learned something new about my neighbors of five years.
Aside from Frank, my favorite characters were Alicia – the author – and Bobby – the bouncer. I was also rooting for Nicole – the crappy nurse – as well, I think because I wanted her to succeed when everyone else wrote her off.
All in all, I highly recommend this one.
About Lia [taken from her website]
“I am a native Californian who loves reading, writing, movies and anything else related to the arts. Writing is something I’ve thought about all my life, so the completion of my first novel, “In Search of Lucy” is truely satifisfying. I hold a B.A. degree in Journalism and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. My most enjoyable moments are spent with my family, traveling, spending time outdoors or simply laughing and being together.”