Bad Housekeeping Is A Welcomed Escape

I’ve always felt that cozy mysteries are the unsung heroes of genre fiction. Sure, Agatha Christie remains a celebrated author even today, and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is rightfully popular, but much of the genre is considered reading material for old ladies who knit and garden. I would argue even the most feel good murder mystery is inherently macabre; all the delight still centers around the fact that someone was murdered and our hero(ine) needs to figure out whodunit before the murderer strikes again. In contrast, it still makes for wonderfully escapist fiction where our murderer is caught and justice is served, and then we all celebrate with a nice cup of tea.

Bad Housekeeping is an upcoming murder mystery by Maia Chance, the first in a new series. Our heroine, Agnes Blythe, is unceremoniously dumped by her professor boyfriend for a pretty Pilates instructor. At the same time, her aunt Effie comes into town to claim her inheritance of the old Stagecoach Inn, which is in desperate need of renovations and repairs. The two women find themselves the prime suspects in a murder case, and must work together to clear their names.

Agnes’s woes are melodramatic and after a while, quite comical. She frequently runs into her ex having the time of his life with his new girlfriend, and after all her clothes are accidentally donated to Goodwill, she is forced to wear her old high school wardrobe dug out from storage at her dad’s house. You can't really get annoyed with her self-depreciation with lines like “I looked like the least favourite wife of a cult leader.” If not written with such lighthearted prose, we might think Agnes the most pathetic person in the entire world. Chance writes with great humour on almost every page, and more than a few passages made me laugh out loud.

Some of the troubles Agnes and Effie have are definitely contrived and do not feel possible. The Stagecoach Inn is suddenly set for demolition within days, and Agnes’s university had apparently appointed her fiance to be her academic advisor. In what world that isn’t a conflict of interest, I have no idea, but there’s more than a few people in this novel that feel far removed from reality. Some of these obstacles are just there to provide tension and a sense of a drastic deadline.

The mystery itself was hard to predict but satisfying in it’s conclusion, which is always a sign of a good whodunit. I did piece together some aspects of the conspiracy before Agnes did, but I did not completely work out who the murderer was until they revealed themselves. That is, after all, the only unpredictable aspect of a murder mystery. Everything else moves as expected, but not in a boring, lifeless way. In the end, Agnes and Effie are not where they thought they would be, but where we are happy to leave them until the next scandalous murder rocks their little town.

Bad Housekeeping is written by Maia Chance and published by Crooked Lane Books. It will be released on June 13, 2017 and is available for pre-order through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Megan “Spooky” Crittenden is a secluded writer who occasionally ventures from her home to give aid to traveling adventurers.