The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I had been waiting for this book to be released for what felt like ages. I loved the cover art and the synopsis intrigued me from the get-go. The idea of an old mystery, a town filled with superstitions and an old threat coming back to torture the present has all the makings of a classic horror movie. Unfortunately, that's where the good stuff ended.
Honestly, I wanted to love this story, truly I did. I was intrigued from the start about the shrieks in the woods from the town's own boogeyman, Birch Markle and the unease that seems to drift through the town at the idea of celebrating their "May Day" again after the last celebration a quarter of a century earlier was marked by the death of girl that Markle apparently killed before fleeing into the woods that same night. I mean, this book really did have all the classic marks of a true horror story. But the book didn't concentrate on that part of the story, all of that was just a backdrop for a tale about a young girl who is being left behind while everyone around her is growing up and trying new things. The fact that the story has Ivy, the lead, trying to understand what her cousin Heather, the new girl to now disappear, was keeping secret from her made me think that either I got the synopsis completely wrong OR Ivy needed to get her priorities straight.
Guess which one was right.
The main problem I had with this book was with Ivy and her supposed best friend/cousin Heather. Ivy thinks she and Heather are close, that they tell each other everything. But from the start, their friendship seemed extremely one-sided, bordering on obsessive on Ivy's end. Heather apparently wants more than the life she'll have in Rowan's Glen, but I guess she figured Ivy wouldn't accept that, because Ivy loves her small-town life, so Heather doesn't tell Ivy about it. Secrets need to be kept in this town; it's just their way of life. But it means that while Ivy is an open book, everyone else has been keeping their secrets, and Ivy needs to learn those secrets to solve everything.
This sets the tone for the entire book. As is, the mystery is set in a small town where everything is secluded, traditions abound and people are wary of the outside world. But when your lead is the "outsider" in the outsider town, there's a whole new level of distance that makes the book boring. Ivy is always on the fringe of what needs to be known and she's so awkward as she tries to solve the problems in the book. Her only real connection was to her cousin and she doesn't seem to know how to function without her. I expected Ivy to gain strength as the story progressed but she never managed to do that.
Before the start of the book and during the majority of the opening chapters, Heather starts doing new things with new people and she sneers down at her cousin every time Ivy tries to connect with her. THIS was their entire relationship until Heather's disappearance. Ivy wanting to know things about Heather and Heather shoving her away because how dare Ivy try to learn anything about Heather. They're supposed to be best friends. Instead, Ivy seems obsessive and Heather comes off as vindictive.
Once Heather disappears, Ivy's obsession takes on a new level as Ivy tries to figure out everything that her cousin had been hiding while trying to figure out what is threatening her small-town existence. Ivy had been spying on her cousin before she disappeared and she uses what she saw to hunt down new leads. On the one hand, I wanted to know the truth about Rowan's Glen. On the other hand, I didn't give two figs about Heather or the fact that she was gone. When you add the two together, it doesn't lead to a pleasant reading experience. Everything started to drag around the middle, and Ivy didn't have enough of a personality to make the mystery interesting.
Once the ending rolls around, it was one reveal after another until all I got was a, "Wait, what just happened?" kind of vibe, instead of being wowed by the way the whole mystery resolved. If you're looking for something scary, this book isn't it. If you're looking for a mystery, this might work, but it has more of a dysfunctional family vibe that tries to be scary feel to it than anything else.
Rating: 3 Stars. In theory, this should have been a book I adored. In reality, it did nothing for me. I will read Sarah Jude's next release though, because I feel that the talent is there, this author knows how to write, we readers just need to be patient for that book that hits all the right notes that is coming sometime in the future.
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