Epeolatry Book Review: Such a Lovely Family by Aggie Blum Thompson
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Title: Such a Lovely Family
Editor: Aggie Blum Thompson
Publisher: Forge Books
Release Date: 12th March, 2024
Synopsis: The cherry blossoms are in full bloom in Washington, D.C., and the Calhouns are in the midst of hosting their annual party to celebrate the best of the spring season. With a house full of friends, neighbors, and their beloved three adult children, the Calhouns are expecting another picture-perfect event. But a brutal murder in the middle of the celebration transforms the yearly gathering into a homicide scene, and all the guests into suspects.
Behind their façade of perfection, the Calhoun family has been keeping some very dark secrets. Parents who use money and emotional manipulation to control their children. Two sons, one the black sheep who is desperate to outrun mistakes he’s made, and the other a new father, willing to risk everything to protect his child. And a daughter: an Instagram influencer who refuses to face the truth about the man she married.
As the investigation heats up, family tensions build, and alliances shift. Long-buried resentments surface, forcing the Calhouns to face their darkest secrets before it’s too late.
A domestic murder mystery rife with scandal and backstabbing, Such a Lovely Family, would rival any soap opera with its family drama and buried secrets. On the surface, the Calhouns have a picture-perfect image. Dressed in matching blue-and-white gingham, they host their annual cherry blossom party to impress their neighbours and show off their considerable wealth. But the perfection is barely skin deep and with a little digging, the ugly truth comes out.
Told in rotating viewpoints from all the family members, and few others, this mystery unfolds one careful piece at a time. And just when you think you’ve learned all the Calhouns’ secrets, the author reveals one more. It definitely kept me on my toes guessing what was next.
The first third of the book is a tad slow, as it is mostly set up. The murder happens well into the party, and only picks up the pace somewhat, but past the halfway mark, the story really takes off when the secrets start coming out and I raced to the finish to figure out exactly who killed whom. I enjoy mysteries that are difficult to guess, and this one was difficult to guess, and in the end my guess was wrong.
However, while the plot and mystery were excellently crafted, the character development left a bit to be desired. Trey the spoiled black sheep, Ellie Grace the desperate social climber, and Danit the nanny marrying above her social class, were well-fleshed out and engaging. Danit and her husband Nate are the moral compasses of the story and the closest we have to main characters. Other characters, like Thom the patriarch, and the neighbours Cookie and Renee, were flat characters. I would have liked more consistency out of Renee, who seemed to be aware of (some of) the Calhouns’ duplicity, yet still viewed them as a perfect family. Deeper insight into Thom Calhoun’s motivations and reasons behind his decisions would have helped, too, I think. Some of the moves he makes don’t quite reconcile with what we know about him.
Anyway, overall it was an enjoyable read full of twists, scandals, and dramatic reveals. Despite its flaws, I recommend it to anyone who enjoys these types of mysteries, and I would seek out this author again.
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Melody lives in Ontario, Canada and writes short, dark fiction. She has been published in several anthologies and online publications. In university, she studied Ancient Greek and Roman Studies and often infuses her work with elements of Greek mythology. She also loves reading, embroidery, and martial arts. You can follow her homepage at: https://www.blog.melodyemcintyre.com/