Series Name: Henry Kimball/Lily Kintner #3

Review By Gabrielle

A Talent for Murder surprised me in a very good way.

Favourite Quote:

It was at this moment that Martha had two competing thoughts. One, that she’d married a nice man. And, two, that he was a complete and utter stranger to her.

Goodreads Synopsis: 

Martha Ratliff conceded long ago that she’d likely spend her life alone. She was fine with it, happy with her solo existence, stimulated by her job as an archival librarian, constantly surrounded by thought-provoking ideas and the books she loved. But then she met Alan, a charming and sweet-natured divorcee with a job that took him on the road for half the year. When he asked her to marry him, she said yes, even though he still felt a little bit like a stranger.

A year in and the marriage was good, except for that strange blood streak on the back of one of his shirts he’d worn to a conference in Denver. Her curiosity turning to suspicion, Martha investigates the cities Alan visited over the past year and uncovers a disturbing pattern—five unsolved cases of murdered women.

Is she married to a serial killer? Or could it merely be a coincidence? Unsure what to think, Martha contacts an old friend from graduate school for advice. Lily Kintner once helped Martha out of a jam with an abusive boyfriend and may have some insight. Intrigued, Lily offers to meet Alan to find out what kind of man he really is . . . but what Lily uncovers is more perplexing and wicked than they ever could have expected.

This book is a solid argument against the practice of DNF (did not finish). Divided into three parts, I struggled to get through the first chunk. It was slow, and I didn’t like the main character, Martha. If I had given up, I would have missed the spectacular second and third parts. 

I will say part of the problem is likely my own doing. I didn’t realize this book is the third in a series. When the character of Lily is introduced, we don’t learn much about her until much later, and I was a bit confused. Henry is even more confusing, and the relationship between him and Lily is barely explained. Presumably, if I had read the other two books first, I would have been much more informed. That being said, this book’s second and third parts are worth the confusion.

The premise is a pretty fun one, even if it isn’t exactly original. A woman starts to suspect her travelling salesman husband is committing murders while away. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll probably see it again. BUT, I loved Peter’s take on it. I was surprised by the twists and turns, and once I got into the second half of the book, I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up very late reading into the night to finish it. 

The structure of the book is interesting with its three parts. The first part feels almost like a cozy mystery in how it is written. We have a bumbling Martha who is trying to investigate her husband, and things unfold slowly. The first half ends with a shocking twist that launches us into the second part with a bang. The pacing picks up, and the perspective changes and I absolutely loved parts two and three. It’s the kind of book that, once you look back on it, you can see the rationale behind the author’s choices to lead you on the journey, and it all makes much more sense. In fact, it’s really quite clever.

Even without understanding all of her backstory, I loved the character of Lily. She is just so fascinating. Definitively flawed and complicated, she sees the world entirely differently than most of us. As a morally grey heroine, she is refreshing. You can believe I’ll be going back and reading the first two books. We don’t get to know Henry very well in this book, but he does play a key role, and I’m invested enough to be looking forward to getting to know him more in the first books.

Don’t be fooled by the slower start, A Talent for Murder is a great read.

Thank you, HarperCollins Publishers for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.