Review of All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon

Agatha Christie meets Clue meets murder mystery weekend, doesn’t that sound promising?

Blurb: The weekend getaway at a gorgeous hotel should have been perfect. But Becca is smarting from her husband Blake’s betrayal and knows that the trip is just an expensive apology attempt. Still, the drinks are strong, and the weekend has an elaborate 1920s murder mystery theme. She decides to get into the spirit and enjoy their stay. 

Before long, the game is afoot: Famed speakeasy songstress Ida Crooner is found “murdered,” and it’s up to the guests to sniff out the culprit. Playing the role of Miss Debbie Taunte, an ingenue with a dark past, Becca dives into the world of pun-heavy clues, hammy acting, and secret passages, hoping to take her mind off her marital troubles.

Then, the morning after they arrive, the actress playing Ida’s maid fails to reappear for her role. Everyone assumes she flaked out on the job, but when snooping for clues as “Debbie,” Becca finds evidence that the young woman may not have left of her own free will.

Told over a nail-biting forty-eight hours and interspersed with in-game clues, set pieces, and character histories from the flapper-filled mystery nested inside a modern one, All Dressed Up is a loving tribute to classic whodunits and a riveting exploration of the secrets we keep.

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Jilly Gagnon has created a wonderful premise in her latest novel, All Dressed Up. Imagine going to a strange secluded mansion for a murder mystery weekend when something mysterious does happen. Has the actress playing the maid just shown how unpredictable she is, flaky is the term they use, or has something unexpected happened to her? And, are of of these weird occurrences and behaviors Becca’s imagination because she has been under a lot of stress or is there something nefarious going on?

Considering how intriguing the plot is All Dressed Up fails to live up to its potential. Much of the beginning is given over to Becca’s mental state and equally the state of her marriage. So much exposition weighed the novel down, making it frequently tedious. More attention should have been given, at this point, to creating atmosphere and characterizations that would add to the mystery, which was the draw of the premise.

About two-thirds of the way through, action picks up and becomes far more engrossing making me wish that Gagnon had written this way throughout. The ending is fast-paced and finishes with a bang. Do I mean that literally? Hmmm.

As the main character, Becca is problematic. Perhaps it’s presumed that because of how she’s been treated that the reader will automatically feel sympathy/empathy/good feelings for her. I just wished she’d drop victim status and be forceful in her own life.

This is a good book; it could have been a great book.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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