Suddenly a Murder (Lauren Muñoz) – Book Review

It has become part of a recent marketing trend to compare every novel that has a rich family or a vaguely murderous plot with Rian Johnson’s 2019 whodunnit knockout Knives Out, whether justified or not. In Lauren Muñoz’s YA mystery Suddenly a Murder, the comparisons are more than validated, with a comparable focus on character, satisfying plot twists, and atmospheric mood.

The premise is simple enough: a septet of (mostly) rich newly-graduated high school students head to the reclusive Ashwood Manor (located on a private island, naturally) to celebrate, only for ugly secrets to emerge in the Golden Age setting they cultivate and for one of their own to turn up dead.

READ MORE: The 1975 – The 1975 – Throwback 10

Muñoz is clearly a fan of the Golden Age mysteries, and that love is imbued throughout Suddenly a Murder, Muñoz’s debut novel, whether that’s the intricate, fair-play plotting of Agatha Christie, the strong characterisation of Ngaio Marsh, or the focus on suspicion and suspense like Margaery Allingham. Through this respect for the genre, Muñoz joins contemporaries who are reviving it, whether that’s Liz Lawson and Kathleen Glasgow’s excellent The Agathas series, Holly Jackson’s intrepid Good Girl trilogy, or Maureen Johnson‘s renowned Truly Devious books, and more than secures her own niche.

Equally pleasing in Suddenly a Murder is the time that Muñoz takes in delving into each of the seven teenagers who interchange the roles of victim, suspect, and investigator. Primary protagonist Izzy (Isadora to her favourite people), is smart and troubled and not, pleasingly, out of contention as the killer due to her main character status. The others too get shading and insight, whether that’s gay theatre nerd Fergus’ anger issues, rich valedictorian Chloe’s feelings of isolation, or Kassidy, Izzy’s best friend, striking the balance between being ridiculously spoiled and incredibly compassionate.

READ MORE: Outlast – Throwback 10

Best of all in Suddenly a Murder is the detective duo who descend upon the isolated Ashwood Manor, one of whom is amongst the most invigorating takes on a consulting detective this reviewer has read in a long time, and a fantastic way to explore Mexican-American identity in a refreshing new way. Here’s to further adventures from Muñoz for this duo, who threaten to all but steal the page away from the cast of teenage suspects, with a clearly rich history between them, crackling chemistry, and a trove of potential for them in the future.

With a passion for the genre and skilful plotting (including one of the most genuinely shocking plot twists that only the most perceptive of readers will see coming), Lauren Muñoz more than secures Suddenly a Murder as one of the year’s best standalone YA mysteries. Even better, she may have secured herself a potential series lead in one of the year’s best new detective forces, and created a solid foundation for herself as a mystery writer to watch out for (something this humble reviewer is sure to do in the future).

Suddenly a Murder is out on 5th September from Hot Key Books.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: