Despite the playful premise, and an emphasis on writers and publishing, Related By Murder never makes actual murder seem light or funny, and Castle proves adept at crafting convincing characters who face loss and disappointment. She also deftly handles the complexity of new and intensifying friendships among her diverse cast, plus the competitive spirits of a group of writer friends—especially once Chester dies, Elise is out-of-the-blue contacted by a top-tier agent, and her brother’s surprising connections to some in the group begin to get exposed. The plotting is smart, as is Castle’s characterization of writers: Elise yearns for a publishing deal, but of course when the life-changing break finally comes, she’s suspicious. Readers, too, will wonder: is everything somehow connected?
Helping sort all that out is Pear, a mysterious figure in her own right. She’s blunt, and nobody’s sure how she came to join their club, but despite that, she lifts Elise’s spirits with horchata and tamales—and soon gets her out of sticky situations—in spite of Elise’s clear distaste for her. The book’s chief pleasure is getting to know this striking creation alongside Elise.
Takeaway: Murder rocks a book club in this polished, character-rich series starter.
Great for fans of: Betsy Reavley’s Murder at the Book Club, Catherine Moloney.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A