UK Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Murder mystery, Gothic satire
You are cordially invited to play a game…
Tuesday Mooney loves a puzzle. So when an eccentric billionaire drops dead, leaving behind a fiendish treasure hunt – open to anyone – to his fortune, Tuesday can’t resist.
Although she works best alone, she soon finds herself partnering up with best friend Dex (money manager by day, karaoke-zealot by night) and the mysterious Nathaniel Arches, eldest son of a wealthy family who held a long-running feud with the dead man.
As the clues are solved, excitement across the city reaches fever pitch – but nothing is as it seems, and the puzzle-within-a-puzzle holds something much darker than a vast fortune at its heart…
I was invited to review this book by the publisher through NetGalley, and I was completely taken with the title and the description so was delighted to get into the story. It came at the perfect time as well – October is a month of classic horror films for me and my husband. And some not-so-classic horror films (I wouldn’t recommend Hammer’s Vampire Circus, aside from the surprising debut of Lalla Ward as a shapeshifting vampire acrobat). This year we were working out way through the collection of Vincent Price and Richard Corman’s Poe adaptations: The Masque of the Red Death, The Fall of the House of Usherand The Ravenall featured. We also enjoyed Theatre of Blood, a later Vincent Price film with Diana Rigg. (The Ravenwas my favourite.)
Basically, I was completely in the mood for a slightly campy, slightly goth story. So when the eccentric dead billionaire turns out to be called Vincent Pryce, and his treasure hunt is themed around Poe, gothic stories, and a taste for the gleefully macabre I realised that HarperCollins had somehow intuited my plans for the spooky season and delivered the perfect companion book to me alongside my cinematographic plans. This book isn’t quite a mystery book, and it isn’t quite a ghost story, and it isn’t quite a romance, and it isn’t quite a comedy. It instead blends the best part of all of these genres to create this wonderfully bold, warm, and funny book about death and grief and all the different ways humans experience and cope with these things, wrapped up in some delightful puzzles with a gothic twist.
I loved the characters in this book. They were all unique and well defined, but they had excellent chemistry and worked well together. Despite being, as stated, a book themed around death and gothic trimmings, it wasn’t maudlin. It was gleeful and energetic and a whole lot of fun. Thursday is a great character, constantly assessing those around her, refusing to conform and outwitting everyone who writes her off as weird and not worth it. Dex is also wonderful – I particularly liked that as observers of his internal voice, and how he appeared through the eyes of his closest friend, we seemed to get a different impression of him from the one everyone else saw. At the start of the novel his boyfriend reveals he sees Dex as smooth, put-together, cutthroat and everything Dex hates about the world he works in. Dex instead sees himself as a diva, a performer, trapped inside the suit of a financier. It’s a brilliant bit of writing, you get the constant baffled frustration from Dex, and the occasional surprise of seeing him through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know him intimately to see whyhe keeps being seen like that.
Everyone in this book knows themselves and embraces themselves, or are coached to recognise their true character and potential through the treasure hunt. I’m almost sorry that Vincent dies so early on in the book because he’s a fantastic character I’d love to spend more time with and get to know. Philosophical and whimsical, with a taste for the gothic aesthetic. He sounds like so much fun.
That’s the other thing about this book – everything is so easy to picture. It’s vividly colourful, much like the old horror films I’ve been watching, actually. The colour palettes in those were so intensely saturated, where now there’s a tendency to go dark, greyscale, and faded. These old films are bright and bold, and that tracks through this book as well. The descriptions, the characters, the nuance – it’s loud and proud and does everything at 100% saturation. I really found it thoroughly joyful and a wonderful read.
Perhaps my only niggle with it is something which says more about me than the book. Tuesday keeps taking her shoes off, and there are quite a few words dedicated to her bare feet. Bare feet in carpet, how they look, how they feel on the floor. For me – look, feet are weird. They’re necessary but I find them odd. I mostly pretend they don’t exist and carry on happily. As I mentioned, however, this book is very bold in its descriptions, so the passages about feet felt a little like poking a raw nerve for me. I would happily read that entire book with all the passages about feet removed. But as I said, this is a very personal and minor narrative quirk which bothed me based on my own hangups rather than any actual flaw with the writing or narrative.
I’m unclear whether this is the first in a series or not – it feels like it could be, but at the same time it also feels as though everything in it is wrapped up pleasingly. It’s a fun book though, and one I don’t hesitate to recommend to anyone.
- A fun, genre-blending romp of a novel written in glorious technicolour. It’s bright and bold, with a fantastic cast of characters.
- Even though it’s a novel about death and mystery, it’s a joyful and very light in its tone. It’s perhaps more Scooby Doo than Agatha Christie, but that’s what makes it really rather wonderful. It also works for any time of year I think, I just fortuitously found it at the perfect time for me to understand all the film references in it.
- I think the feet passages probably total less than 500 words. Literally take out all the feet bits and it’s a perfect book.
- In some countries, this book is sold with the title Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts.
Rating: 5/5 – even with the feet I can’t begrudge it the full five stars because it’s really lovely.