Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review - J.J. Murphy's A Friendly Game of Murder

A Friendly Game of Murder by J.J. Murphy
Published by: Signet
Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 336 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

The Algonquin is having their big New Year's Eve Party. Up in the penthouse Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford are giving the party of the season. Down in the lobby Dorothy is waiting for Benchley to arrive so that perhaps she might have the midnight kiss she has dreamed of. Though things go a little south when the hotel is put under quarantine... they can party, but they can't leave. Which is not a problem so long as the booze holds out. When the new Broadway sensation Bibi Bibelot decides to make a bit of a spectacle, in nothing but her birthday suit and some bubbly, tensions become high, and heated for many of the young bucks. When Bibi turns up dead, things get worse. But with her wit and her friends by her side, Dorothy knows she can solve this mystery before the quarantine is lifted, it doesn't hurt that she has the creator of Sherlock Holmes on hand to help her. Of course she does have to figure out how to kill Woollcott before the night is out... sadly that crime is only in fun, being a "friendly game of murder."

There is nothing better then the perfect book at the perfect time. This book was such a book. I have, in recent years, come to love snuggling down for New Year's with a nice book or movie, preferably with a cat nearby. This past year I got to snuggle down and read about characters who have become dear friends while they celebrated their New Year's... albeit fictionally and nearing on a hundred years ago. But still, I can't think of a more perfect New Year's Eve, so kudos to the publishers for coinciding the release date with the story. I'm a die hard book geek and this made my day.

I loved that J.J. really upped the game in this book. In the previous two installments, the characters have been boozing it up and running hither and yon and being who knows where, and, while always a great read, all that tooing-and-frooing can be a little tiring. So having them locked in the Algonquin was a nice respite from all that rushing about greater Manhattan. Yet, this means we are now working within that greatest of detective tropes, the locked room mystery. Does J.J. settle there? No! He one-ups that and makes the murder a locked room in a locked room, the Agatha Christie fan in me did a double squeal of joy, followed by a polite throat clearing in the manner of Poirot. There is also the method of murder being not apparently obvious, so the suspect is not obvious, therefore the how comes before the who. I'm just giddy now.

As for the "guest stars" who wouldn't be over the moon with Arthur Conan Doyle becoming a reluctant sleuth? I love how Dorothy tries to draw him into their world of fun and games, but the stoic Doyle with his walrus moustache tries to stay apart from the rabble... an endeavour that is bound to fail when Dorothy's involved! Yet nothing warmed the cockles of my heart more then Doyle being all blustery and Woolcott being all blustery and having at each other... the denouement of their butting heads is hilarious. Then there is the game of "murder." I think it's spiffing that J.J. used a game that the members of the Round Table actually played and was able to use this as a framing device for the novel, as well as a wonderful title. 

While no one can beat the witty banter and the amusing scenarios that happen when Parker and Benchley are around; I defy someone to find a scene in a recent book as funny as Robert Benchley trying to work the Algonquin Hotel's telephone switchboard, not only are there a lot of crossed wires, but a lot of information gained that is pertinent to the case; I was grateful for "the lovebirds" being apart for the midnight hour. I'm still not sure how I feel about their romance. They are indeed star crossed lovers, but I think that in order to maintain the light air of this series that they must always, alas, remain flirty friends.

On a final note, seriously, can someone tell me when Philately got so big in mysteries? Is it down to Flavia De Luce? Or was it a trend I never noticed till then... because really people, it's everywhere lately.


Not sure what it is about philately lately. But better that than more teenage vampires in love.
Thanks for the terrific review!

I HEARTILY second that sentiment!

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