A Death at the Party by Amy Stuart
A Death at the Party is a murder mystery with an unusual twist. The killer is revealed immediately, but the identity of the victim is left unknown. Stuart opens her novel with the killer watching their victim's last breath exit their body. A bold, enticing opening, which unfortunately does not set the pace for the rest of the story. It was wise to begin the story this way because despite taking place over the course of only a single day, the pacing is a bit slow. Too much time is spent chasing the main character, Nadine, around as she completes her distracted errands in preparation for her mother's birthday party later that night. There are plenty of secrets and reveals to maintain and sate the reader's curiosity, but this story might have worked better as a tightly paced novella.
The weakest part is the main character, Nadine. She is a complex, well-rounded individual, but she is unpleasant. I can enjoy a flawed and difficult protagonist if they are engaging and maybe a little tragic, but Nadine is judgmental, self-righteous and hypocritical. I grew tired of her unwarranted suspicion of everyone quickly. I found the characters around her more engaging. Her complicated mother was my favourite and I would have loved to read the story from her point of view.
Even with the pacing and character struggles, the overall mystery and amount of reveals and secrets is strong. I also appreciated that while some of these secrets were shocking, none of them felt gratuitous or forced. I read a lot of mysteries and too often authors force the least likely candidate to be the culprit and it rings hollow. The answers in this book were complex and well chosen.
Overall, I did like the story and would try other works by this author.
* I was given a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.