Review : Playdate by Alex Dahl

Plot Summary ( from Goodreads )

It was meant to be your daughter’s first sleepover. Now it’s an abduction .

Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie . Later that evening , Lucia’s mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and kissed her little girl goodnight .

That was the last time she saw her daughter .

The next morning , when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up , the house was empty . No furniture , no family , no Lucia .

In Playdate , Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation . Who has taken their daughter, and why?

My thoughts on the book :

This is my first Alex Dahl read . Having seen the positive reviews and award nominations for her debut , I picked up her latest when it became available on Audible . Play Date has multiple POV narrative with even Lucia Blix narrating some chapters . While having a child narrator seems to be a great idea ( considering that the abduction of this narrator set in motion the events which the other narrators are currently narrating ) , the execution of little Lucia ‘ s voice had me thinking if the novel could have done without her narrative . Perhaps Dahl could have had a third-person omniscient narrator . The problem with Lucia is that she is a 7 year old who at times talks like a 5 year old and at times talks like a 11 year old ( which is even worse . . . )

Selma , the investigative journalist is clairvoyant which brings something fresh to the story instead of yet another what ‘ s – her – name investigative reporter who is an amalgamation of several other investigative reporters in previous reads that you are only concerned that he or she does not die during investigation and would not give a second thought once you turn the last page of the book . While Selma would not stand a chance of being memorable if we get another suspense fiction heroine like Salander , still Selma deserves mention for being probably the first clairvoyant sleuth in suspense fiction . The downside of Selma ‘ s clairvoyancy is that it allows the author to pin few interesting suspicions to her gut feeling ( without going into the trouble of PROPER sleuthing ) which she then follows up to give the readers the next big twist . Sometimes , it seemed to me that the author was using clairvoyance as a escape hatch from laying out detailed on – the -ground sleuthing procedures . The Norwegian setting also brought in something new ( atleast for me ) . . .

The story is simply superb and just when I was thinking I had figured it all out , Dahl had to introduce another literally jaw dropping twist and end the story on a high note . While several plot points become predictable as more characters start to talk and despite the previous mentioned fails , the ending is something that you would not see coming . . . A word of caution about the blurb – Dahl has not put a microscope on the kidnapped child ‘ s family – you get the regular family drama with the alternately grieving and hoping parents of the kidnapped child , the strain on the marriage following the disappearance of the child , one ( or both ) the parents having secrets and every other drama you have seen already when it comes to the missing child premise . . . #SettingTheExpectationsRight #NoGreatExpectations

Spoilers Ahead . . .

Why would Selma come to the conclusion that one of the Blix parents has done something in the past when she spills some soup and the soup stains bring to mind blood which turn her thoughts towards crime and possible retribution when she could do some proper on – the – ground work ? Also her explanation of taking an interest in a particular accident in town when there are several others that same year in the same town are not very convincing . . .

Rating : 3.5 / 5 **

** The rating would have been a 3 if it had not been for the simply superb finish . . .

Interestingly , I had another thriller dealing with the missing child premise – Little Lies by Jennifer Hillier . You can check out the review here . If you have already read Playdate , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . . . Until the next review then . .

Review : The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Plot summary ( from Goodreads ) :

On a cool June morning , a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach . Before she can stop him , the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick , but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister . . .

The next morning , three women in and around London—Fatima , Thea , and Isabel — receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come , from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only , “ I need you . ”

The four girls were best friends at Salten , a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel . Each different in their own way , the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game , telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty , with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them . The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict : no lying to each other—ever . Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out . But their little game had consequences , and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school ’ s eccentric art teacher , Ambrose ( who also happens to be Kate’s father ) .

My thoughts on the book :

This is my first Ruth Ware read and I am pretty impressed with her plotting abilities . A clique forced to revisit the memories of the past and discovering new angles to the secret which ties them together is not an entirely new premise in suspense fiction . What sets this one apart from the rest is the constant shapeshifting of the narrative which constantly makes the readers to question almost every single thing that is being said about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ambrose . The narrative keeps transitioning seamlessly from one mystery sub – genre to the next – from a whodunnit to a whydunnit to “don ‘ t tell – the real -thing – and – give – them – umpteen – scenarios – to – keep – ‘ em – guessing ” . It succeeds in keeping up the suspense right until the last chapter but one .

Now for the cons –

The narrative pace was somewhat slow for a good two – thirds of the novel . There are too many unwanted mentions about Isa ‘ s first – time mother woes and fears , long winded descriptions of all the drama in the reunion at Kate ‘ s house , the friends ‘ reactions to Fathima embracing her religion late in life ( to mention a few ) made me want to put the book in the DNF pile . Only the brilliant twists and interesting reveals kept me turning the pages . The name of the local policeman is found only in the mentions of the local who happens to be his mother who gets some inside information on the case proceedings and gloatingly voices the information and her opinions to the narrator . The police procedural involves only ominous mentions about a tent in the excavation site . While suspense fiction fans tend to look down upon works which do not have some police procedural drama , The Lying Game ‘ s popularity is a testimony to the author ‘ s brilliant plotting and decent storytelling skills . There were also some questions which were still left unanswered at the end . . .

I expected the finale to pack a punch after the narrative seemed to have finally picked up pace . After spending hours navigating through the deluge of everyday drama for a good one – third of the novel , the final few pages raised my hopes too much . However , the finale` was a huge dampner and somewhat over dramatic – a la` House of Wax . ( Hope you have got the hint . . . ) .

Hardcore suspense fiction readers can steer clear off this one easily . . .

Rating : 3 . 5 / 5

If you have already read the book , you can say in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . Until the next review then . . .

Review : The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay ( British Library Crime Classics #1 )

Sir Osmond Melbury is having a family gathering for Christmas at his country mansion Flaxmere but his sister is of the view that nothing good could ever come of the Melbury family gatherings . For a change , Sir Osmond has planned to liven up the Christmas festivities by having one of the guests dress up as Santa Claus and distribute the presents to his grand – children and the servants . Sir Osmond is found dead in his study with a bullet to his head by Oliver Wittcombe who is playing the Santa . While Oliver seems to have every opportunity to have fired the shot that killed Sir Osmund , he does not have an obvious motive . But almost every other member of the house party seems to have had their own motives but no easy opportunity as Oliver and also private suspicions about the identity of the killer . When the Chief Constable of Haulmshire thinks that he knows the family too well which could pose some difficulties for him but eventually realizes that there are too many things he does not know about the family . As the investigation proceeds , a startling discovery comes up : There were two Santas and not one . . .

The Santa Klaus murder is a classic country manor mystery . Sir Osmund ‘ s Santa plans need not fool you into thinking that he is the benevolent and affectionate man . He has always enjoyed a charged atmosphere and having people tip – toe around him . The patriarch demanded abject submission to his wishes from those around him and threatened them with reducing their inheritances if they chose to do otherwise . The family knows this to be no idle threat – his eldest daughter Hilda Wynford who was widowed at a young age with a child has not received any kind of support from her father because she married against his wishes except to be allowed at her father ‘ s house . ( Doesn ‘ t Sir Osmund bring to mind  wealthy entrepreneur Aristide Leonides from Agatha Christie ‘ s The Crooked House ? ) The narrative is structured as written accounts of the days prior to the tragic Christmas Day starting from the day when the members of the house party began to trickle at Flaxmere by some members of the house party . We also have a detailed chronicling of the investigation by Col . Halstock , the Chief Constable of Haulmshire and one chapter narrated by the amateur detective of this book , Kenneth Stour who also happens to be the ex – lover of Sir Osmond ‘ s daughter Lady Edith Evershot . . .

Col . Halstock is more like Watson and Kenneth , Holmes . While we have seen detectives who deduce a man ‘ s physical profile from his stride or read into something as random as a splash of candle grease or ponder about the most trivial observations of one ‘ s day , Col . Halstock sees a dislodged cover of a typewriter in the study where Sir Osmund had been murdered and does not think for a moment about getting it checked for fingerprints . Let the above statement not put you off . I think hardcore crime fiction fans would love being one – up over the investigating officer and the amateur sleuth for a change . However , all these gaffes during the investigation could not be held against Col . Halstock simply because he does not have the facts at all or is often mislead by the accounts of the inmates of the house who are keen on safe – guarding their loved ones whom they think have a decent motive for murdering Sir Osmund . Some humor , a good pace and the discovery of a new clue or perspective with each chapter , Col . Halstock is definitely not a detective bad enough to put you off this case . With the timely inputs from Kenneth Stour and his own decent deductions , the narrative keeps the reader engaged and is very enjoyable . And no , I did not guess the identity of the murderer correctly despite flattering myself that I spotted a few key clues even before the misinformed detective on the case spotted it . . .

Despite the good pace of the multiple narratives keeping the readers hooked , I felt that the writing of certain scenarios could have been better – while certain family members attribute ” solid ” motives to few others , there is not a single private conversation or confrontation to add weight to their arguments that X / Y have a good motive to bump off the old man . All those suspects did not utter a single menacing word against Sir Osmund . While I never guessed the culprit , I would have liked a narrative from him about how he almost pulled off a perfect murder . . . Certain characters do not get a mention in the POSTSCRIPT chapter – after all the concern I had invested on the suicidal ex – chauffeur I would definitely like to know if his fortunes took a turn for the better or if Sir Osmund ‘ s Miss Lemon got her next job . . .

Rating : 3 . 75 / 5

Despite some flaws , you definitely would not regret getting a taste of Golden Age Crime Fiction writing from Mavis Doriel Hay , whom I think definitely needs wider recognition . Highly recommended from me . If you have already read the book , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book and also which cover do you prefer . Until the next review then . .