Review: Murder Most Actual – Alexis Hall

Review: Murder Most Actual – Alexis HallMurder Most Actual
by Alexis Hall
Publisher: Kobo Originals
Publication Date: November 9, 2021
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 302
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

From the author of Boyfriend Material and Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake comes a cozy mystery that revisits the Golden Age of detective fiction, starring a heroine who’s more podcaster than private eye and topped with a lethal dose of parody -- perfect for fans of Clue, Knives Out, and Only Murders in the Building!

When up-and-coming true crime podcaster Liza and her corporate financier wife Hanna head to a luxurious hotel in the Scottish Highlands, they're hoping for a chance to rekindle their marriage - not to find themselves trapped in the middle of an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery with no way home. But who better to take on the case than someone whose entire profession relies on an obsession with all things mysterious and macabre? Though some of her fellow guests may consider her an interfering new media hack, Liza knows a thing or two about crime and – despite Hanna’s preference for waiting out the chaos behind a locked door – might be the only one capable of discovering the killer. As the bodies rack up and the stakes rise, can they save their marriage -- and their lives?


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I’d enjoyed the other mystery I’d read by Alexis Hall, so I was eager to jump into this one. And while this is undeniably a very different book, it’s just as unbelievably fun.

After a decade of marriage, Liza and Hanna have found themselves drifting apart, and a luxurious long weekend in a remote Scottish hotel is meant to help repair their relationship. Liza’s a moderately popular podcaster while her wife Hanna is a corporate financier (basically, she helps rich people make more money). Hanna’s job is demanding, but it’s meant that Liza’s been able to dabble in various creative pursuits, finally settling on a true crime podcast with a friend where they discuss various cases over wine. Which means that, after the first death occurs, she can’t help investigating it. But as more guests begin dying, they’re trying to save their lives instead of their marriage.

“Murder,” said Belloc with more than a hint of sanctimony, “is not a subject for talk with the girls. It is not something for a casual chat over wine and nibbles. Murder is a serious subject for serious people. It is, as the saying has it and most rightly, a subject most foul.”

What I hadn’t expected (and was absolutely delighted by) is that this book was loosely inspired by Clue. The first clue was the chapter titles (like “Sir Richard, in the Dining Room, with Drinks”). The next came when the other guests at the hotel were described with very specific sartorial choices. The Colonel Mustard characteris a colonel who wears an unfortunate yellow tie the first night at dinner, Mrs. Peacock is wearing a peacock shawl, etc. My personal favorite is Miss Scarlet, in this book named Ruby, a dangerous femme fatale who takes a particular interest in Liza. Belloc, the private detective who speaks with a French accent and constantly refers to himself in the third person (even in his personal diaries), was a close second.

“Don’t be a killjoy, Vivien,” said her husband. “There’s nothing wrong with a bit of murder every now and then.”

Liza’s curious, and while that serves her well when investigating cold cases for her podcast, it’s perhaps not a good thing when trapped in a hotel with at least one murderer. On more than one occasion, Liza actually runs towards gun shots, something that Hanna is (understandably) peeved about. If Liza’s our Intrepid Girl Reporter, Hanna’s the voice of reality in the midst of all the ridiculousness. And sure, it would arguably have been safer for them to just lock themselves in their room for the remainder of the weekend, but, well, that would’ve been a pretty boring story. Hanna’s kind and considerate, but she’s also the type of person to book an expensive vacation without consulting her wife. She’s a strong personality, and lately Liza’s felt like their relationship is just her tagging along, not an equal partnership. Plus between Hanna’s long hours, well, actually making money and all the trips and hours Liza pours into the podcast, if feels like they have no time to connect any longer.

“You don’t have to come. You clearly think this is a bad idea.”
“We’re married. Your bad ideas are my bad ideas.”

There’s two plot lines throughout the book: the murder mystery and the fractures in Liza and Hanna’s marriage. As opposed to the caricatures of the other guests, Liza and Hanna come off as very real people, who still love each other but have grown so far apart that they’re not sure how to stay together. They’re flawed characters (see Liza’s tendency to run towards gun shots), and watching them take the first steps towards repairing their relationship was sweet. While initially they tend towards jumping down each other’s throats, they slowly relearn how to communicate with each other. In the midst of all the murdery craziness, their problems are really quite, well, normal.

As for the mystery, it’s all a bit tongue-in-cheek. At times it’s absolute over-the-top ridiculousness, but the clever humor made a good balance to the more macabre murders. For the most part, the mystery bits are satisfactorily twisty and full of red herrings. Some of the clues towards the end felt a bit glaring, so I had a reasonable idea of what had happened, though it wasn’t until Liza’s grand wrap-up that I saw the whole picture. And yes, there is the famous Poirot-style “gather everyone together and explain who the murder is” bit at the end, which I absolutely adored.

Overall, a really fun and quick read. Recommended if you think Clue could use more lesbian couples!

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