I’m a huge fan of murder mysteries, and have been ever since discovering the Nancy Drew mystery series in grade school. I’ve grown up with the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the clever tales Agatha Christie wrote, and will admit to a binge-watch of Queens of Mystery just this past week. However, I have never participated in a murder mystery weekend. In short, the teaser blurb for All Dressed Up was fully loaded and aimed right at my heart.
The book’s setting is perfection. I know a murder mystery can take place in a dinner theatre or aboard a train, but for me, the classic mansion out in the middle of nowhere is ideal. There’s just so many possibilities in a setting as complicated as a mansion.
Our protagonist, Becca, arrives at the mansion with her luggage and plenty of emotional baggage, too. A while back, she caught her husband in an affair, and while he’s tried everything to make amends, nothing he does is enough. He knows Becca loves mysteries, and thus he’s arranged for them to immerse in a murder mystery weekend.
Seems like a lovely way to reconnect, doesn’t it? Unfortunately Becca spends most of her waking hours agonizing over Blake’s infidelity. She repeatedly gets herself worked up over it, usually while drinking, and we readers get to hear every agonizing, paranoid, jealous thought in her head. There may be many players in this weekend game, but they’re all overshadowed by Becca’s inability to control her jealousy and rage. By the halfway point, I was dearly tempted to start skipping her internal monologues, but this being a murder mystery, I was concerned I might miss a clue.
The mystery itself is clever, sassy, and well put together. We’re even handed the same written fact sheets and instructions that the players are. Reading those has the effect of pulling the reader into the story, and I absolutely loved that. There’s more than one mystery going on too, so you’ll be kept on your toes trying to solve them both. A caution: If you aren’t a drinker, you just might become one by the time you reach the last page… I’m just sayin’.
Becca’s annoying jealousy eventually has a payoff, but I believe that payoff could have been reached just as well without Becca constantly backsliding into emotional territory that’s already been covered over and over. I have a very low threshold for raging jealousy, whether in real life or on a book’s page, I freely admit. Perhaps other readers will have more patience with this aspect of the story. I hope so, because in all other ways it’s a brilliant tale.
My thanks to author Jilly Gagnon, Bantam Books, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital advance review copy of this book. This review is my honest and unbiased opinion.