THE DEEP END is the debut mystery novel by Julie Mulhern. (Julie is a fellow 2014 Golden Heart® finalist and I received a free copy of her book from her publisher Henery Press.)
It’s 1974 in Kansas City. Ellison Russell, an artist, heads to her country club for her customary early morning swim. She never expected to find the body of her husband’s dead mistress floating in the pool.
Life gets not just complicated but messy and confusing for Ellison and her daughter Grace. Henry, Ellison’s husband has disappeared and not one but two more mistresses show up. Add in a kinky dominatrix, blackmail, an overbearing mother, and an attractive (and kind) police detective and poor Ellison is toast.
THE DEEP END is a classic “fair play” mystery with clues and red herrings sprinkled throughout. I enjoyed this one a lot (and not just because I kinda sorta know the author or because I got a free copy of the book).
The hard part of reviewing mysteries is not giving away any spoilers. So, I’ll say just a few more things:
- The murderer is nicely foreshadowed.
- Henry is vile and fully deserves the fate Mulhern gave him.
- The secondary characters are fully-fleshed out and add to the story.
- Ellison’s rationale for not telling the police everything she knows makes sense and didn’t make me roll my eyes or say, “Oh, please,” even once. This is a chronic pitfall of amateur sleuth stories, since often the whole thing could be wrapped up at the end of Chapter Five if the protagonist just trusted the police to do their job. Not so with THE DEEP END.
To prove that I’m not just gushing heedlessly, I did have one teeny tiny issue with THE DEEP END that I’ll mention.
Ellison felt just a tad too stoic to me. In some places I felt like she was too detached from what was going on around her. I would have liked a bit more emotion from her in a few places. Sometimes over the top is called for and I felt Mulhern kept her reined in too tightly.
But that didn’t detract from my enjoyment and my ability to heartily recommend THE DEEP END.
The cover declares that THE DEEP END is one of The Country Club Murders. I’m eager to read the next book in the series. Mulhern has laid the groundwork for an ongoing series, much like Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott, Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Schlutz, or Earlene Fowler’s Benni Harper. I think Ellison Russell will be a worthy addition to the roster of amateur sleuths alongside Deborah, Goldy, and Benni.
Who’s your favorite amateur sleuth in mystery novels? Besides the ones I mentioned above, I also love Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden and Donna Parker. Oh, and Reverend Claire Ferguson in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s novels.