Book Review: How to Solve Your Own Murder by Kristen Perrin

Frances Adams always believed she’d be murdered. She was right.
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Kristen Perrin’s debut adult novel How to Solve Your Own Murder was snapped up by publishers in the UK, US, Germany, Italy and Australia, and it’s easy to see why. An English country manor, riches up for grabs, and a murderous fortune make for an intriguing twist on some classic cosy mystery themes. Two well-crafted crimes unravel over dual timelines, allowing readers to see the characters in their youth, and as adults – and suspects – in the titular murder.

At the heart of the story is a haunting prophecy delivered to seventeen-year-old Frances Adams by a fortune teller at a country fair in 1965. It warns she will be betrayed, and then murdered. This prediction takes root in young Frances’ mind, and ultimately consumes her. When the prophecy comes true, it is up to Frances’ resourceful young great-niece to finish the investigation Frances started.

It is an irresistible premise and the book lives up to the clever opening gambit. How to Solve Your Own Murder is tightly constructed and will keep you guessing, engaged, and turning the pages as you attempt to decipher the clues.

Buy How to Solve Your Own Murder by Kristen Perrin at QBD Books.

The modern tale begins in Chelsea, London, where Frances’ great niece Annabelle Adams is summoned to Castle Knoll for a matter relating to the still-alive Frances’ will. Annie travels to meet with her great aunt’s solicitor, and then onto Frances’ stately home, only to discover upon arrival that Frances has in fact, finally, been murdered.

Frances’ will decrees that in order to claim her inheritance, Annie must solve the murder. This seems simple enough, except Annie is pitted against Frances’ nephew Saxon, who is also after the loot. If neither of them can manage it the estate will pass into the hands of an opportunistic local property developer. 

Frances had spent years trying to determine who would kill her, and as Annie sets to work uncovering the perpetrator of the dastardly act she learns that her eccentric aunt was not well liked, not least because she developed a penchant for collecting collateral on the locals as she investigated them.

Young Frances appears to us via her diary. We travel back and forth between past and present, with clues to the mystery in each slowly meted out.

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The two timelines offer something pleasingly different stories. In the 1960s we have an intrigue among friends, a mysterious playboy millionaire who broods in his palatial home and takes an interest in Frances, and a rivalry between Frances and her frenemy Emily, who wants to seduce the millionaire herself.  

In the contemporary timeline, Annie tears around the quaint town in her great aunt’s Rolls Royce, racing to find the truth as she assesses the locals and stumbles upon a small, local marijuana operation, among other things.

All of the occupants of Castle Knoll are well-drawn, layered, and consequently, credible suspects. Their actions in the past provide motive for possible criminal acts in the present. The two timelines become more and more entwined until eventually the pieces lock together with satisfactory precision, but not before a nail-biting climax. 

The fortune at the heart of this story is haunting and beautifully written and sets the tone for the whole multi-generational tale. How To Solve Your Own Murder is fun, entertaining and ultimately very satisfying.

Buy How to Solve Your Own Murder here and read our author interview with Kristen Perrin.

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