Tag Archives: mystery

A NEARLY NORMAL FAMILY by M.T. Edvardsson

A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson is a crime drama about a family in Sweden. Adam, the father, is a pastor, and his wife Ulrika is a high-powered attorney. When their 18 year-old daughter Stella is accused of murdering a man they’ve never heard of before, their first instinct is to protect her. But did she actually commit the crime? If so, why?

Why I picked it up: I got this book at Book Expo last year, and it’s been on my shelf ever since. I suggested A Nearly Normal Family as one of three possibilities to my book club last month, and this is the one they picked. It was also a BOTM pick for June 2019.

A Nearly Normal Family is told in three parts: Adam’s story, then Stella’s, and then Ulrika’s. Through the three perspectives, the mystery gets teased out. How much did Stella’s parents know about her life? Did her best friend Amina, who seems to be hiding something, play a part in the man’s death? It turns out everyone in the family has secrets that he or she is hiding from the other two, along with regrets and longings. This family may appear normal on the outside, but there are a lot of things boiling right under the surface.

Of the three sections, I found Adam’s most compelling. The tension between the demands of his professional calling and his cellular need to protect Stella at all costs drives him to make some questionable decisions, but his actions are linear and consistent. The Stella sand Ulrika sections were more problematic for me, as both women vacillated often, cycling through competing and opposing (and dramatic!) emotions, often within the same paragraph. They also repeated themselves a lot. As a result, Ulrika and Stella were inconsistent and less credible as characters, which ultimately weakened the book for me.

A Nearly Normal Family is part of a growing list of popular contemporary crime mysteries/thrillers. I liked the idea behind it, but the execution made it a just OK read for me.

A Nearly Normal Family was Book #7 of 2020.

THE LAST SEPTEMBER by Nina de Gramont

The Last September by Nina de Gramont was one of my favorite reads of the summer. It’s hard to describe – it’s about the demise of a passionate marriage, but it’s also a suspenseful murder mystery. Brett and Charlie meet through Charlie’s younger brother Eli when Eli and Brett are in college together. Brett falls deeply in love with Charlie, despite Eli’s warnings that he is a womanizer who can’t commit to a relationship. After one night together, Brett doesn’t hear from Charlie again. She tries to move on, getting engaged to another man, but runs across Charlie a few years later (ironically through her fiance) and is simply powerless to resist him.

Meanwhile, Eli is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Brett and Charlie marry and have a baby, but their marriage is always under the cloud of Eli’s disease – the ups and downs, the dangerous episodes and hospitalizations. And Brett remains deeply insecure about Charlie’s love, an insecurity that is proven justified when she discovers that he has had an affair.

The Last September opens with Charlie’s murder, and the rest of the book traces Brett and Charlie’s relationship and marriage. It also eventually deals with the question of who killed Charlie. The obvious choice is Eli, off his meds and out of control, but Brett isn’t so sure.

I really, really enjoyed The Last September. de Gramont’s writing is understated but beautifully detailed. Her characters are flawed people trying to make the best of a really awful situation, finely drawn and utterly realistic. I had a hard time putting this one down. Brett is a tough character to like, in a lot of ways – she’s impulsive and self-absorbed, willing to sacrifice anything to be with Charlie. But if you’ve ever been crazy in love and desperate to be with someone, then you can start to understand why Brett does what she does. I thought the first 4/5 of the book was absolutely perfect, and then took issue with some of Brett’s actions that seemed out of character. But in the end, I still really enjoyed it. There were enough plausible suspects for Charlie’s murder that I was left guessing until the very end.

The Last September also provides a heartbreaking glimpse into the sad effects of mental illness on the afflicted and their families.

Highly recommended for fans of domestic fiction and/or mysteries. The Last September is a beautifully written combination of both.