My rating: 2 of 5 stars
‘She was a riot of contradictions: quiet but pushy, reserved but passionate, observant yet refreshingly slow to judge.’
Reviewing Murder at the Mill is also going to be a ‘riot of contradictions’ because I’ve gone from rating it a one star, ‘this sucks’ read to a near on four star ‘ooooh I need some answers page-turner’ read.
It was also a riot of Post-It notes, as you can see here!
I have never felt so conflicted about rating a book as this one, I shall try my upmost to review this honestly and fairly without too much snark.
So, Murder at the Mill is a cosy mystery set in Hampshire, England, ‘perfect for fans of Midsomer Murder and Agatha Christie’. Apparently.
To try and fathom out my star rating, I’m going to have to see how this review pans out, as I still haven’t decided my final decision even at this point.
The plot itself deserves a solid 3 stars, possibly even 3.5 because the ‘whodunnit’ element was really very good. This, along with characters whose closet skeletons were being discovered left, right and centre was what kept me going.
The characters, in which there were many, all helped to build an intriguing mystery with their dodgy pasts and poisonous personas. A 3 star rating for sure here is deserving as I particularly liked Billy, the black sheep of the family. He was portrayed well in a sinister and menacing way. The main protagonist, Iris Grey was my least favourite, her quirkiness and terrible taste in clothes became rather tiresome as the story progressed.
The writing style. Oh god, this is where it gets awkward.
SIMILES. SIMILES. SIMILES. SIMILES. SIMILES. SIMILES.
I am so DONE with the countless, terrible, TERRIBLE similes in this book.
…’the spindly tree branches swayed and shivered pathetically in the wind like the starved limbs of concentration camp prisoners pleading for escape.’ (WHAT? WHY? Editor, why? Awful. Truly awful.)
…’tore at the wrapping on his gift like a starving child clawing at a bag of rice.’ (No. Just no.)
And what’s with all these animals? After the first two dozen, I was destined for eye-rolling moments throughout.
…’like a smug cockerel.’ (Smug! Whaaat?!)
…’like a wounded fox.’
…’listening to the satisfying crack as they shattered beyond repair like the bones of tiny mice.’
…’as excited as two piglets on speed.’ (What the..?! 😂)
…’staggering around like a newborn fawn.’
…’impale them like lambs on a spit.’
…’attached himself like a louche limpet…’
I could go on, it gets worse. Describing someone’s anger pouring out …’like pus from a lanced boil’ was the final straw really. It was pretty damn dire.
Ok, maybe there’s a bit of snark here, but I just can’t help myself! Tell me, Ms Shaw, were you sponsored by all those brands you name-dropped throughout your book? Tesco, Smarties, Heinz, Next, H&M, Zara, Cath Kidston, blah, blah, blah. So much was described based on the brand alone, and it irritated the hell out of me.
It’s also funny how so many different characters used the term ‘whatnot’ in their conversations. Must be a Hampshire village thing.
By now, you can probably tell why I’m still debating about this books star rating. My main problem is I really enjoyed the story, it hooked me in and I was overall impressed by the final revelations and conclusion. There was some pretty good red herrings in there too. But for me to rate a book above 3 stars, the writing style has to satisfy me. Towards the end I started to laugh and groan at some of the descriptive text and it took away my enjoyment and marred the seriousness of the story.
After all is said and done, I’ve decided, I’m giving Murder at the Mill 2 stars. And strangely, I would indeed read another cosy mystery about Iris Grey and her irksome sleuthing. Even if it was just to spot all the awful, and sometimes unintentionally comical similes that are scattered ‘like dandruff on one’s shoulders’ throughout the book.
Thank you to the author, the publisher Orion Books and Goodreads for hosting a giveaway for which I was lucky enough to win!