A Prospect for Murder is a contemplative and slow-paced mystery with fantastic scenery and lovely characterization.
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson’s Prospect for Murder is a unique mystery set against the lush backdrop of Hawaii.
A haunting and detailed vision of her grandniece’s death spurs Natalie Seachrist into action. Under the guise of retired journalist, Natalie copes with the grief and loss by carefully investigating the suspicious death of her beloved Ariel. With a loose coalition of allies, Natalie subtly interviews residents of the apartment building where Ariel died, delves into library archives, and follows her occasional psychic visions to determine how Ariel passed and why.
Prospect for Murder focuses more on the everyday than a typical procedural mystery might. At the forefront is the Jessica Fletcher-like heroine, Natalie. Natalie boasts a keen intellect and dogged persistence, along with a tinge of supernatural insight. Her quest is simply to determine the truth behind Ariel’s death so the family can have closure—but without putting herself or anyone else in any danger.
Natalie’s strong relationships with those around her help cement the story while slowly pushing it forward. A retired ex-cop provides connections and a budding romance, interviews with the apartment denizens build up an interesting historical backstory while subtly laying down important clues, and a feline companion interjects a bit of levity into the proceedings. These allies and contacts establish a community that bodes well for the future of the series.
The setting functions nearly as a character in its own right. Set on Hawaii, much of the plot revolves around the history and people of the islands. From the roaring 1920s to tumultuous World War II, much is discussed as Natalie attempts to bond with and carefully interrogate potential suspects. These forays into the past, alongside well-detailed modern locations, help to ground the story beautifully.
The pacing is languid, allowing Natalie room to investigate realistically. An overly lengthy interview with a landlord, though, does inhibit progression.
As a mystery, the novel features a simple crime and an unsatisfying ending. The truth behind Ariel’s death is revealed in the last few pages of the book, but without a enough of a rewarding connection to previous information and actions. Instead, the issue is neatly tied up without too much undue fuss. Since so much of the earlier story revolved around Ariel’s death, the conclusion falls flat.
Prospect for Murder is a contemplative and slow-paced mystery with fantastic scenery and lovely characterization.
John M. Murray
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