MOTHERS & MURDER BY MEIKE ALANA
I’ve been on kind of a domestic suspense kick lately—specifically books with themes of dysfunctional familial relationships, and an added flair that examines the mother-daughter dynamic. This summer has seen a number of new releases that fall squarely into this unique category, all with widely differing styles and story lines.
The first one I read was “Beware the Woman” by Megan Abbott, which deals with a mother-to-be. Fans of Abbott’s know that no one mines the more sinister urges of young females better than she, and few can build a dark, sex-infused mood as expertly as Abbott. Newly pregnant Jacy and her husband Jed pay a visit to Jed’s father, Dr. Ash, who lives in an isolated cabin on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. All seems well initially—Dr. Ash is a charming gentleman who treats Jacy with the utmost kindness. But things very slowly take a darker turn—there’s an unwelcoming housekeeper, a mountain lion sighting, power outages, no cell service, and an increasing distance between Jacy and Jed which leaves her feeling isolated and afraid. Things come to a head when Jacy suffers a medical scare, and Abbott deftly raises questions about who has the right to determine what’s best for the contents of a woman’s womb.
“My Murder” by Katie Williams is a wildly unique story about a young wife and new mother. The narrator, Louise, was killed shortly after her first child was born--the final victim of a serial killer named Edward Early. She and his four other victims are given a second chance at life when they’re cloned by a sketchy government agency. This would seem ideal, but Louise hasn’t quite been able to settle into her new second life. She has only vague memories of the weeks leading up to her murder, but what she does know is that she was feeling depressed and unsure about marriage and motherhood. Her baby screams every time she tries to hold her, maybe sensing that this isn’t the body that birthed her. She finds a duffel bag hidden in her closet, one that the original Louise had packed before her murder, which suggests she was planning to run away from her new life. Sci-fi isn’t usually my thing, but those elements enhance the sinister tone of this sharply written, twisty novel that was a lot of fun to read.
“Mother-Daughter Murder Night” by Nina Simon is the title of my dreams. (What murder mystery-loving mother doesn’t fantasize about sharing a good murder story with her daughter?) In this case, grandma even gets in on the action! Lana Rubicon is a tremendously successful LA real estate mogul, but a health issue forces her to relocate to the sleepy coastal town where her estranged daughter Beth and grand-daughter Jack live. When Jack discovers a dead body while out kayaking and becomes the police’s prime suspect, Lana and Beth are forced to join forces in finding the killer and clearing Jack’s name. The bucolic setting and volatile dynamics between the Rubicon women made for a fun adventure.
“A Likeable Woman” by May Cobb is about a young woman who gets the chance to explore details about her mother’s suicide when she travels back home for a childhood friend’s vow renewal ceremony. Kira was only a teenager when her mother Sadie committed suicide and has never quite recovered from her loss. Kira enjoyed an immensely close bond with Sadie, the country club set’s resident free-spirited wild child (decidedly NOT a “likeable woman”) and falls into such a deep depression after her mother’s death that her grandmother sends her away to boarding school. Kira never actually returns to the wealthy East Texas town of her youth and manages to steer clear for decades. She initially wants to decline the invitation to what promises to be a high school reunion of sorts, but some texts from her grandmother suggest her mother might not have died at her own hand. When Kira learns that her teenage crush Jack is going to be there, she returns to her cliquish hometown and begins digging into the days and weeks leading up to Sadie’s death. She finds that her friends and their parents are hiding a lot of secrets, and someone will go to any lengthy to make sure those stay hidden.