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A faded country house in the middle of nowhere. The guests are snowed in. The murders begin. Withering and waspish, Ursula Smart (not her real name) gate-crashes her mother’s book club at an isolated country house for a long weekend retreat. Much to Mother’s chagrin. Joining them are Mother’s best friend, Mirabelle, Aunts Charlotte and Less, and Bridget with her dog Mr Bojang A faded country house in the middle of nowhere. The guests are snowed in. The murders begin. Withering and waspish, Ursula Smart (not her real name) gate-crashes her mother’s book club at an isolated country house for a long weekend retreat. Much to Mother’s chagrin. Joining them are Mother’s best friend, Mirabelle, Aunts Charlotte and Less, and Bridget with her dog Mr Bojangles. It doesn’t matter that they’ve read Gone Girl three times this year already, this retreat is their chance to escape bustling suburbia. But someone has other ideas. A body is found in the grounds. Is a lone killer hunting them? Or has one of their own group embarked on a killing spree? What they need is to stop sniping at each other long enough to solve the mystery before the killer strikes again. What they need is a guide to survive.


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A faded country house in the middle of nowhere. The guests are snowed in. The murders begin. Withering and waspish, Ursula Smart (not her real name) gate-crashes her mother’s book club at an isolated country house for a long weekend retreat. Much to Mother’s chagrin. Joining them are Mother’s best friend, Mirabelle, Aunts Charlotte and Less, and Bridget with her dog Mr Bojang A faded country house in the middle of nowhere. The guests are snowed in. The murders begin. Withering and waspish, Ursula Smart (not her real name) gate-crashes her mother’s book club at an isolated country house for a long weekend retreat. Much to Mother’s chagrin. Joining them are Mother’s best friend, Mirabelle, Aunts Charlotte and Less, and Bridget with her dog Mr Bojangles. It doesn’t matter that they’ve read Gone Girl three times this year already, this retreat is their chance to escape bustling suburbia. But someone has other ideas. A body is found in the grounds. Is a lone killer hunting them? Or has one of their own group embarked on a killing spree? What they need is to stop sniping at each other long enough to solve the mystery before the killer strikes again. What they need is a guide to survive.

30 review for The Smart Woman's Guide to Murder

  1. 5 out of 5

    carol.

    You would think that at my age, I would be smarter than to fall for a marketing line that claims "A GOLDEN AGE COUNTRY HOUSE MURDER MYSTERY BROUGHT BANG UP TO DATE, Perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, Anthony Horowitz." I beg to differ. I have't read anything this overwrought since 'Chasing Embers' by James Bennett.. "You surely jest," you say. 'Oh no,' I claim, and proceed to demonstrate. "It happened when the snow first fell, violet white, branding our eyes with its glare and covering our steps You would think that at my age, I would be smarter than to fall for a marketing line that claims "A GOLDEN AGE COUNTRY HOUSE MURDER MYSTERY BROUGHT BANG UP TO DATE, Perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, Anthony Horowitz." I beg to differ. I have't read anything this overwrought since 'Chasing Embers' by James Bennett.. "You surely jest," you say. 'Oh no,' I claim, and proceed to demonstrate. "It happened when the snow first fell, violet white, branding our eyes with its glare and covering our steps almost as soon as we had lifted our feet. The cold bit deep into our faces and when we opened our mouths to speak, snow singed our tongues. The wind laced round our legs as we leaned into the fierce air." I'd question 'violet white' snow, but let's let it slide. Snow definitely doesn't 'brand with glare' and the metaphor doesn't match the cold feeling Dowd is going for. Couple that with 'singed.' She might be wanting to get at 'so cold it was burning,' but this is a group of book club ladies walking outside a mansion in England, not explorers in the Arctic. It's overwrought and silly. Wind 'lacing' around legs is a look, not an action. Our narrator looks out a "greasy car window" and noted that "the house stood ashen faced amongst it all." Then, the sun starts to set: "A translucent sun was falling in the sky, casting only an insipid light. We were at the hinged point of the day when darkness was stirring and would soon turn over into dusk. The day was unravelling." 'How did the window get greasy?' I paused to wonder here. And 'what scared the house that it looks ashen, or is it just anemic?' But where I really got stuck is the three different metaphors crunched together for describing a sunset: a hinge, cooking and knitting. Then there's the three pages our narrator spends describing her dead father's smoking habit. Add to this that although we are teased with the dead body in the first scene, the actual lead in and discovery doesn't take place until 27%. Agatha Christie this ain't. I finally quit with relief. It turns out this isn't a mystery at all. This is an immature narrator who relentlessly exaggerates and meanly describes her mother, an aunt, an 'adopted' aunt, and another of her mom's friends, along with two mansion servants, all in context of her own historical relationship issues. It's supposed to be biting and incisive, but really it's mostly like an adolescent learning to use irony for the first time. She seems to be working out her family issues about her perfect dead father and her cold, unfeeling mother. There was literally nothing "thriller" about it, except if you mean the piano mysteriously playing her dad's favorite tune. Until the 27%, in fact, most of the story took place in retrospect, with the narrator telling stories about how horrible each of these people were, and how wonderful her memories of her father were. Worst marketing campaign ever, Jaffe. Had your team said anything about "troubled new adult working out her anger for her mother and loss of her father while witnessing the antagonism at her mother's hateful book club," I would have known to pass on reading. It don't recommend it to anyone, except masochists who like watching people be mean to each other. Advance copy provided by Netgalley and Joffe Books and all opinions are definitely my own.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    This is a fun, light entertaining book with witty and informative chapter headings such as: "Never invite spiritualists, fortune tellers or anyone communing with the other side into your home. They may see more than you imagined." Who knew crashing a book club could be so fun and so deadly at the same time! Ursula joins her Mother Pandora's book club (members: Aunts Charlotte and Less, her mother's friend Mirabelle, and Bridget accompanied by her dog Mr. Bojangles). Pandora is hosting their book c This is a fun, light entertaining book with witty and informative chapter headings such as: "Never invite spiritualists, fortune tellers or anyone communing with the other side into your home. They may see more than you imagined." Who knew crashing a book club could be so fun and so deadly at the same time! Ursula joins her Mother Pandora's book club (members: Aunts Charlotte and Less, her mother's friend Mirabelle, and Bridget accompanied by her dog Mr. Bojangles). Pandora is hosting their book club at a weekend retreat. But soon a body shows up... I swear if I took a drink every time someone, mainly Pandora said "Shut up, Ursula" I would be rip-roaring drunk! But I will shut up about that and tell you that this is a fun, witty book. I loved the chapter headings which give advice and tell one how to survive. Who is the killer? Is someone amongst them on a killing spree? How much danger are they in? How will they survive? Plus, will they EVER discuss the book? A light fun little mystery with humor and interesting characters. It was a hoot! Thank you to Joffe Books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    JEN A

    I received an advance copy of this book from net galley and the publisher in return for an honest review. Release date for this book is 6 May 2020 I wasn’t sure about this book when I first started reading it. I love a good mystery/thriller and at first I thought the author was trying a bit too hard but about halfway through I really started getting into it. The characters aren’t really likable but they are relatable. The storyline seemed to have a few holes in it but that didn’t take away from t I received an advance copy of this book from net galley and the publisher in return for an honest review. Release date for this book is 6 May 2020 I wasn’t sure about this book when I first started reading it. I love a good mystery/thriller and at first I thought the author was trying a bit too hard but about halfway through I really started getting into it. The characters aren’t really likable but they are relatable. The storyline seemed to have a few holes in it but that didn’t take away from the joy of reading the book. In the end I have found it to be actually one of my favorite mysteries that I’ve read in a while. It’s not perfect but in the end it captured my attention and even my imagination.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    Ursula's mother has organised a book club weekend away at faded and isolated country house Ambergris Towers. Ursula is tagging along under much sufferance which is repeatedly made abundantly clear to her. Joining them are book club members her Aunt Charlotte, Mirabelle, Less who Ursula named years ago as she’s joyless and Bridget with pampered pooch Mr Bojangles. The staff of the house are Mr and Mrs Angel - think Bela Lugosi for Mr Angel. He suggests a fortune teller for the first nights entert Ursula's mother has organised a book club weekend away at faded and isolated country house Ambergris Towers. Ursula is tagging along under much sufferance which is repeatedly made abundantly clear to her. Joining them are book club members her Aunt Charlotte, Mirabelle, Less who Ursula named years ago as she’s joyless and Bridget with pampered pooch Mr Bojangles. The staff of the house are Mr and Mrs Angel - think Bela Lugosi for Mr Angel. He suggests a fortune teller for the first nights entertainment which somewhat reluctantly they agree to. As the weather closes in with snow falling heavily and no means of communication, the occupants of the house realise there’s a killer on the loose. The story is told by Ursula. The characters in the book are vividly portrayed but not especially easy to like. It’s hard to imagine a more sarcastic and caustic bunch and their target is usually poor Ursula. They drink copiously and frankly so would I if I had the misfortune to be stuck that lot or I just might just kill them myself!!! The story is very funny at times, it’s highly entertaining, smart and snarky. The killing spree has a Jonathan Creek style mystery ‘how is it done’ element to it which adds an extra element of intrigue as you and the occupants of the house try to figure out what’s going on and why. The murders are as creative as the characters and it’s most definitely in the spirit of an Agatha Christie novel but a darned sight more fun. There’s a Gothic feel to the storytelling too which is partly provided by the house and it’s feel , gloom, mystery and secrets. Each chapter has a rule which are really clever and some are very amusing. The story is well written, there’s a good pace and plot, there are plenty of twists with a dash of suspense and copious amounts of tension between the characters. Overall, a very entertaining, fun read which is perfect for right now.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Helga

    "Remember, there is a fragile line between life and death. One wrong step and you will no longer exist." This book was exactly what I needed! A breath of fresh air. A modern day cozy mystery where a group of despicable characters with deadly humor and sarcasm provide the perfect setting for not one but four murders! As the story unravels, one gets used to the vileness of the characters; one falls in love with them even. One misses them when the story ends. Imagine an isolated country house ("Slaugh "Remember, there is a fragile line between life and death. One wrong step and you will no longer exist." This book was exactly what I needed! A breath of fresh air. A modern day cozy mystery where a group of despicable characters with deadly humor and sarcasm provide the perfect setting for not one but four murders! As the story unravels, one gets used to the vileness of the characters; one falls in love with them even. One misses them when the story ends. Imagine an isolated country house ("Slaughter House, that’s what the press would call it later"), where members of a book club have rented as a retreat to “discuss” their current read. There is no phone or TV or internet. And before long, blood will be spilled, accusations will go around, some will be blamed, fingers will point and secrets will be revealed. PS. I absolutely love the unique and refreshing cover of the book. Thanks to the author, Joffe Books and the NetGalley for my copy of the book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tahera

    'Never stay in an isolated country house with a disparate group of possible sociopaths.... or a book club.' Well, this is exactly what a group of women, who DO fall under the title of 'disparate group of possible sociopaths' decide to do....that is come together for a book club weekend retreat at an isolated country house where they find themselves snowed in with no phones and no internet service. This group, which consists of Pandora Smart who is hosting the book club, her sister Charlotte, 'Never stay in an isolated country house with a disparate group of possible sociopaths.... or a book club.' Well, this is exactly what a group of women, who DO fall under the title of 'disparate group of possible sociopaths' decide to do....that is come together for a book club weekend retreat at an isolated country house where they find themselves snowed in with no phones and no internet service. This group, which consists of Pandora Smart who is hosting the book club, her sister Charlotte, her 'friends' Mirabelle, Bridget alongwith her dog Mr. Bonjangles, Joy (Less) Cowdale and her daughter Ursula who decides to crash the get together, CAN'T STAND (or more precisely LOATHE) one or more of each other. They are more than happy to spend their bookish weekend being sarcastic, snide and snarky with each other complete with murderous thoughts rather than discuss their chosen book. Until actual dead bodies start piling up. Who is on a killing spree? Is it one of the group or someone else entirely? And why? Are the victims being randomly selected or is there a link to them? The remaining survivors (headed by Ursula) now need to work together to solve these questions, with no tools at their disposal except their own power of deduction before they become the next victim..... while still maintaining their snarkiness with each other. The things I liked about the book were the snarky dialogues between this crazy group of women. Honestly, considering how much they despise and loathe each other, it's baffling these ladies haven't wacked each other off already! The chapter headings (disguised as rules on how to survive and solve a murder mystery) were also clever and witty. My thanks to NetGalley, the publisher Joffe Books and the author Victoria Dowd for an e-Arc of the book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael David

    This is a fun take on a locked room mystery. The writing is brutally funny at times, and kept me engaged as the mystery played out. It's nice to read a lighter suspense book from time to time, and this one definitely kept me entertained. 3.5 stars rounded up. This is a fun take on a locked room mystery. The writing is brutally funny at times, and kept me engaged as the mystery played out. It's nice to read a lighter suspense book from time to time, and this one definitely kept me entertained. 3.5 stars rounded up.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Louise Wilson

    3.5 stars rounded up to 4 Pandora Smart arranges a weekend away for the members of her book club to Ambergris Tower. But her daughter, Urusla decides to tags along with them. But once they are there there's a snow storm and they get snowed in. Theres no phone signal or wifi. Then they discover a dead body, then there's more dead bodies. Who will be next? The group must find out who the murderer is before they strike again. This is another whodunnit and debut novel. The story is narrated by Ursula. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 Pandora Smart arranges a weekend away for the members of her book club to Ambergris Tower. But her daughter, Urusla decides to tags along with them. But once they are there there's a snow storm and they get snowed in. Theres no phone signal or wifi. Then they discover a dead body, then there's more dead bodies. Who will be next? The group must find out who the murderer is before they strike again. This is another whodunnit and debut novel. The story is narrated by Ursula. The story has some humor buts theres plenty of suspense and mystery. There is six people staying in the rented house plus the butler and a housekeeper. As they try to solve the mystery, we find out more about the characters. I look forward to reading more from this author in future. I would like to thank NetGalley, Joffe Books and the author Victoria Dowd for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    "A twisty, darkly comic take on the classic country house murder mystery" pretty much sums up this debut novel from Victoria Dowd. An entertaining read that felt like a gothic version of Agatha Christie, but set in the present day, and while there were certainly chuckles in having a book club that doesn't really read books but prefers to imbibe heavily, I had a genuinely hard time liking any of the characters. With friends, and a mother, like these who needs enemies? It was well written, had a lo "A twisty, darkly comic take on the classic country house murder mystery" pretty much sums up this debut novel from Victoria Dowd. An entertaining read that felt like a gothic version of Agatha Christie, but set in the present day, and while there were certainly chuckles in having a book club that doesn't really read books but prefers to imbibe heavily, I had a genuinely hard time liking any of the characters. With friends, and a mother, like these who needs enemies? It was well written, had a lovely flow to it and the plot kept me guessing, however I just didn't feel invested enough in a collective clutch of snarky, nasty biatches to want to read more of the series. I received a free ecopy of the novel directly from the publishers Joffe Books. I have voluntarily chosen to review the book and the gifting in no way influences my review/rating, which reflects my honest opinion.

  10. 4 out of 5

    CYIReadBooks (Claire)

    I struggled with this book. After reading rave reviews, I was anxious to get reading. I loved the book cover and the description so it was a surprising disappointment. The storyline was engaging. How can you go wrong with a women's book club gathered at a country mansion for a nice retreat and that retreat turns into a nightmare as bodies start appearing? Unfortunately, something went wrong as I continued reading. I seem to think it was the condescending characters and their snarky remarks. I beg I struggled with this book. After reading rave reviews, I was anxious to get reading. I loved the book cover and the description so it was a surprising disappointment. The storyline was engaging. How can you go wrong with a women's book club gathered at a country mansion for a nice retreat and that retreat turns into a nightmare as bodies start appearing? Unfortunately, something went wrong as I continued reading. I seem to think it was the condescending characters and their snarky remarks. I began to hate all of the characters. Maybe there was supposed to be some wry humor, but I didn't get it. I still managed to finish the book and I have to admit that the ending was a surprise. Two stars -- it was okay. Thank you NetGalley and Joffe Books for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eve (Between The Bookends)

    The entire time I was reading this book, I kept thinking it would make a fantastic movie! I enjoyed this one a lot. Interesting characters. Engaging plot. Kept me guessing to the end.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    The Smart Woman's Guide to Murder is the first book in a series inspired by the Golden Age of crime. It is very much a homage to Agatha Christie and is a classic murder mystery set in a country house but has been yanked into the 21st century and features a collection of unusual characters, with all their strange and difficult relationships. Pandora Smart is attending a weekend retreat hosted by her book club at a beautiful, isolated country estate and decides to take her daughter Ursula with her The Smart Woman's Guide to Murder is the first book in a series inspired by the Golden Age of crime. It is very much a homage to Agatha Christie and is a classic murder mystery set in a country house but has been yanked into the 21st century and features a collection of unusual characters, with all their strange and difficult relationships. Pandora Smart is attending a weekend retreat hosted by her book club at a beautiful, isolated country estate and decides to take her daughter Ursula with her much to the annoyance of the rest of the patrons. The five members: Pandora, Bridget, Charlotte, Mirabelle and Joy have very little in common with one another but manage to keep it together enough to discuss (or not) books. However, it soon becomes clear that someone has been killed when a body is found in the grounds but with a frigid blizzard incoming, they are snowed in before too long with no means of communication to contact the outside world and the relevant authorities and no form of transportation to leave. It appears they are stuck with one another for the foreseeable but that isn't so pleasant when one of them may be a cold-blooded murderer. I thoroughly enjoyed this ”locked room” mystery and must admit to chortling out loud quite a bit; it's no easy feat to make me laugh I promise you. I find very little amusing but the subtle wit and charm of this clever little book had me hook, line and sinker. Dowd has brought the country house mystery bang up to date and I devoured it in a single captivating sitting. We have a limited pool of suspects present at the retreat who all turn out to seemingly have it within them to commit murder with their motives being the likes of envy right through to resentment and long-held grudges. This is a compelling and addictive read full of mystery and with plenty to keep you thinking. Ursula is a fantastic character whose acerbic commentary illuminates each page and provides a contrast between the light and dark elements. If you enjoy old-school mysteries made bang up to date with a decent dose of sardonic humour then this is well worth your time. It's just something a tad different from the usual. I look forward to the sequel and reacquainting myself with the Smarts. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Joffe for an ARC.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Linda Strong

    Ursula (what she calls herself) invites herself to the mother's book club, where they all meet at an isolated country house for a long weekend. Her mother's best friend, two aunts, and another woman with her dog, Mr Bojangles are all present and accounted for. This retreat is their chance to escape bustling suburbia. But someone has other ideas. A body is found on the grounds. Has one of their own group started a killing spree ... or was this victim specifically targeted? Leaving is not an option Ursula (what she calls herself) invites herself to the mother's book club, where they all meet at an isolated country house for a long weekend. Her mother's best friend, two aunts, and another woman with her dog, Mr Bojangles are all present and accounted for. This retreat is their chance to escape bustling suburbia. But someone has other ideas. A body is found on the grounds. Has one of their own group started a killing spree ... or was this victim specifically targeted? Leaving is not an option ... they are snowed in. What the book club members need is to stop sniping at each other long enough to solve the mystery before the killer strikes again. But how to go about solving a murder mystery ... before someone else dies? Although some of the characters would have driven me batty had I been among them for more than a day, I found them to be quite entertaining ... even humorous at times. They each had their own quirks and issues and I saw all of them being capable of murder. It started out slow and pretty much retained a slower pace throughout. Like an old fashioned murder mystery in the days before cell phones and the internet, and DNA testing, it held my interest from start to finish. Many thanks to the author / Joffe Books / Books n All Promotions / Netgalley for the digital copy of this crime fiction. Read and reviewed voluntarily, opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Herbie

    I can honestly say that I love the format of this book, with the chapters named after rules for not getting murdered. However, this writing style is just really not for me and 14% in I'm going to have to throw in the towel. For my tastes, it's much too lyrical and descriptive and I'm finding I'm skipping over unnecessary paragraphs of text in the hope of finding the story in there. Lots have loved this one though, so it may just be me being grouchy today 😆 I can honestly say that I love the format of this book, with the chapters named after rules for not getting murdered. However, this writing style is just really not for me and 14% in I'm going to have to throw in the towel. For my tastes, it's much too lyrical and descriptive and I'm finding I'm skipping over unnecessary paragraphs of text in the hope of finding the story in there. Lots have loved this one though, so it may just be me being grouchy today 😆

  15. 5 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    I adored this probably because it took me right back to my younger days, devouring Agatha Christie novels at a rate of knots. This has all the classic Christie ingredients- an isolated mansion, a group dynamic of suspects and victims, a twisty plot where really anyone could have done it and an amateur detective trying to work it all out. It was huge fun to read, a modern twist on a classic tale, descriptively delicious and often taking some very dark turns. The ultimate resolution is cleverly ach I adored this probably because it took me right back to my younger days, devouring Agatha Christie novels at a rate of knots. This has all the classic Christie ingredients- an isolated mansion, a group dynamic of suspects and victims, a twisty plot where really anyone could have done it and an amateur detective trying to work it all out. It was huge fun to read, a modern twist on a classic tale, descriptively delicious and often taking some very dark turns. The ultimate resolution is cleverly achieved with yet another twist on a classic Christie move to get you there. A little literary delight for this reader and I can't wait for the sequel that I'm sure will be a thing. Highly recommended. Especially if you kind of like a cosy mystery but prefer them to have a fair bit of blood and guts...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lyndie

    Dowds debut novel is a fun and quirky take on the classic whodunit mystery! If you enjoy reading the works of Agatha Christie then I highly recommend you give this book a try. Pandora decides to book a creepy old mansion in BFE for a book club getaway. This is the start of murderous weekend. Why you ask? Please refer to rule 1 below: ⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇ Rule 1: Never stay in an isolated country house with a disparate group of possible sociopaths . . . or a book club The book has an interesting cast of c Dowds debut novel is a fun and quirky take on the classic whodunit mystery! If you enjoy reading the works of Agatha Christie then I highly recommend you give this book a try. Pandora decides to book a creepy old mansion in BFE for a book club getaway. This is the start of murderous weekend. Why you ask? Please refer to rule 1 below: ⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇ Rule 1: Never stay in an isolated country house with a disparate group of possible sociopaths . . . or a book club The book has an interesting cast of characters although none of them are very likeable. There is Pandora ( mother and book club leader), Ursula ( daughter and smart ass), Aunt Charlotte ( Pandoras dense sister), Mirabelle ( Pandoras BFF) Less ( the thief who no one truly likes), Bridget ( the only one who seems to read), Mr. Bojangles ( Bridgets yappy furry companion) and the house staff (The Angels). Honestly though I cant help but picture "RiffRaff" and "Magenta " everytime I read their names. The plot was well developed and kept me guessing all the way to the end. There was no shortage of twist and turns. The writing itself was witty and laced with plenty of dark humor. Overall I really loved this book and am confident many others will too! I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anissa

    I began loving this and in the end liked it.  Ursula and her mother Pandora (not their real names and as yet not explained) had clear voices and some serious dysfunction between them. Add in Pandora's book group friends, Joy (called Less because she's Joy-less), Mirabelle (a tacky, cloying creature that'd give Grima Wormtongue a run for his money), Bridget (who is the only person who wants to discuss the book) with her dog Mr. Bojangles. and Aunt Charlotte (who I may have liked most of all). They I began loving this and in the end liked it.  Ursula and her mother Pandora (not their real names and as yet not explained) had clear voices and some serious dysfunction between them. Add in Pandora's book group friends, Joy (called Less because she's Joy-less), Mirabelle (a tacky, cloying creature that'd give Grima Wormtongue a run for his money), Bridget (who is the only person who wants to discuss the book) with her dog Mr. Bojangles. and Aunt Charlotte (who I may have liked most of all). They all converge on country house Ambergris Towers for a weekend retreat to discuss books and have drinks (ok, mostly to have drinks). They're met by and attended to by the Angels, a caricature caretaker couple and very soon the Fortuneteller shows up and things take a murderous turn. Before too long the bodies are stacking up and it's turning into a real problem because a killer seems to be in their midst and this is already a group that has high levels of vitriol and low levels of trust and goodwill.  Leading the investigation and following the clues is Ursula who started off well. Sadly, she had some side issues that got in the way and took not just her off course, but this reader along with her. Her father's died years ago, you see and she's either never come to terms with it or completely raised him to godlike status in her mind. Whatever parts each comprises the result is that she's given to secretive drinking and something that's either panic attacks (I hoped) or melodramatics (as her descriptions are sometimes given to) or something slightly supernatural/paranormal. I admit to starting to lose interest in those parts, mostly because I'm not into supernatural or paranormal threads in my cozy mysteries. But there's never a clear explanation of what the problem is, we simply find out that she's also on medications. I found this aspect to be the weakest point of the story and of her narration and didn't enjoy it at all. In the end, Ursula isn't the one to solve the mystery so that was a nice surprise and an interesting choice as she's our narrator and the one the story is built on. I found that a novel take. I felt a bit like the story switched from witty, acerbic modern cozy to something else somewhere along the way and I can't say I much liked that. I found I highlit most in the first half and I liked its tempo more than the latter half. But I liked it enough to read the next. Hopefully, some of the bothersome quirks (firsts in cozy series seem always to have them) get sorted.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sharah McConville

    It took me a few attempts to get into The Smart Woman's Guide to Murder. Once I did, I enjoyed this quirky, witty murder mystery. Ursula Smart (the sarcastic narrator) invites herself along to her Mother's book club weekend away. Ursula's Mother, Pandora, books a secluded country mansion in the English countryside for herself and her unlikeable friends. As the weather worsens, the women become snowed in and then the murders begin. I was thoroughly entertained by this story. Thanks to NetGalley a It took me a few attempts to get into The Smart Woman's Guide to Murder. Once I did, I enjoyed this quirky, witty murder mystery. Ursula Smart (the sarcastic narrator) invites herself along to her Mother's book club weekend away. Ursula's Mother, Pandora, books a secluded country mansion in the English countryside for herself and her unlikeable friends. As the weather worsens, the women become snowed in and then the murders begin. I was thoroughly entertained by this story. Thanks to NetGalley and Joffe Books for my digital copy.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nicole (TheBookWormDrinketh)

    “Rule 1: Never stay in an isolated country house with a disparate group of possible sociopaths… or a book club.” What a fun twist on your typical “stuck in a house in the boonies” style murder mystery! This novel was like “And Then There were None” met a hilariously dis-functional Brit Com. The characters were the type you hate to love, and love to hate. Let’s start with our narrator, Ursula Smart. Forced to join her mother at this “book club” because of an “incident”, she can be summed up in one “Rule 1: Never stay in an isolated country house with a disparate group of possible sociopaths… or a book club.” What a fun twist on your typical “stuck in a house in the boonies” style murder mystery! This novel was like “And Then There were None” met a hilariously dis-functional Brit Com. The characters were the type you hate to love, and love to hate. Let’s start with our narrator, Ursula Smart. Forced to join her mother at this “book club” because of an “incident”, she can be summed up in one sentence, “That, and the fact that we’re not really called Ursula and Pandora Smart. Those are the pseudonyms that I chose for us. My real name is another misdemeanor I set firmly at my mother’s door.” ….So, you CHOSE Ursula as your pseudonym? Well, that already makes me wonder about her… I kid, though. Ursula was interesting because she really only gave you a very vague sense of her character and background, while spilling everything about everyone else. These women were always butting heads. Five strong willed women stuck in a country mansion with no escape from each other. But, they have many words of wisdom throughout trying to solve these murders, “As with most book clubs, the first rule of book club was you do not talk about the book.” And, “Bravery is better with booze.” The antics had twists and turns that will keep you on your toes! If you think that you’ve figured everything out? YOU PROBABLY HAVEN’T! It would have received five stars if the ending hadn’t fallen a little bit flat. Not the solution to the mystery. I loved how everything worked out! But, the delivery of the solution, and the conclusion of the book just felt a little “……and then it was done.” Which left me just, OH SO SLIGHTLY, disappointed. Other than that, it was a fantastic book for mystery fans who want some really fun and flamboyant characters with some SERIOUS personality (and, I don’t mean that in a “Walter Cronkite reading the news” kind of way, I mean that in a “sausage tube jam packed with personality” kind of way!), a few laughs, and a little gore.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    What a quirky, fun take on the traditional English Country House murder mystery! There's a wonderfully wacky cast of characters with differing ideas as to how a book club should be run. Then nature steps in, and the guests are snowed in. One-by-one, murders begin. Is there a single killer that's hunting them all? Or is one of the book club members on a killing spree? I found this to be a charming, authentically golden age era style murder mystery, yet set in present day. I was delighted by this b What a quirky, fun take on the traditional English Country House murder mystery! There's a wonderfully wacky cast of characters with differing ideas as to how a book club should be run. Then nature steps in, and the guests are snowed in. One-by-one, murders begin. Is there a single killer that's hunting them all? Or is one of the book club members on a killing spree? I found this to be a charming, authentically golden age era style murder mystery, yet set in present day. I was delighted by this book and found myself laughing aloud at parts while simultaneously trying to figure out whodunit. I thoroughly recommend this book. I would like to thank Victoria Dowd, Joffee Books and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book and exchange for a fair and honest review

  21. 4 out of 5

    Leeanne Graham

    The Smart Woman's Guide to Murder by Victoria Dowd is a brilliant old fashioned murder mystery for fans of Agatha Christie and cozy mysteries. Ursula invites herself to her mothers book club weekend and quickly becomes involved in a deliciously clever murder mystery. The characters are all incredibly well written and interact with one another in ways that had me giggling and gripped in equal measures. There were enough twists and red herrings to keep me guessing right up until the final reveal; a The Smart Woman's Guide to Murder by Victoria Dowd is a brilliant old fashioned murder mystery for fans of Agatha Christie and cozy mysteries. Ursula invites herself to her mothers book club weekend and quickly becomes involved in a deliciously clever murder mystery. The characters are all incredibly well written and interact with one another in ways that had me giggling and gripped in equal measures. There were enough twists and red herrings to keep me guessing right up until the final reveal; and the ending did not disappoint. It's the first entry in a series that looks set to be spectacular. It's a breath of fresh air to the genre in the way its interspersed with comedic and sarcastic wit and doesn't take itself too seriously; while at the same time being completely on point. It's a captivating read and I highly recommend it. Can't wait for the next one! Thanks to Netgalley, Joffe Books and Victoria Dowd for the ARC.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mrs Alison

    Strap yourself in! Full of wonderful plot twists and developments so some sort of neck-brace might be advisable!. Recommended to me by a good friend, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having never read a 'who done it' style of novel before, I was immediately swept away with this plot and story. So many 'big' characters waiting to burst out on every page and vying for your attention/the spotlight. All hilarious in their own dark ways. Calling out for a film version! I won't divulge any plot spoilers. It's Strap yourself in! Full of wonderful plot twists and developments so some sort of neck-brace might be advisable!. Recommended to me by a good friend, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having never read a 'who done it' style of novel before, I was immediately swept away with this plot and story. So many 'big' characters waiting to burst out on every page and vying for your attention/the spotlight. All hilarious in their own dark ways. Calling out for a film version! I won't divulge any plot spoilers. It's a great read and it had me laughing out loud, tittering silently and rolling my eyes as character's personalities and alibis start to fray and fall apart!! Read it and enjoy! I look forward to a follow up. It's crying out for one.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Denice Langley

    A very original cast of characters set in an old mansion, just the sort of house you'd picture in your head for a weekend full of fun and a few crimes along the way, that will keep you entertained as the unlucky group tries to keep from being the next one to die. Entertaining is one of the adjectives that keeps coming to mind as I think back over this book. The title alone was enough to grab a mystery lover's attention. Then Victoria Dowd does an excellent job of building her cast and the settin A very original cast of characters set in an old mansion, just the sort of house you'd picture in your head for a weekend full of fun and a few crimes along the way, that will keep you entertained as the unlucky group tries to keep from being the next one to die. Entertaining is one of the adjectives that keeps coming to mind as I think back over this book. The title alone was enough to grab a mystery lover's attention. Then Victoria Dowd does an excellent job of building her cast and the setting so you have a very good "visual" of them too. I enjoyed this book very, very much.

  24. 4 out of 5

    booklover BEV

    A fascinating murder mystery, with added humour. I loved this book, it's a new author for me to try, like always I love a challenge. The story never failed me from the start. After a body is found in the grounds of a isolated house, who is responsible?. A fabulous who dunnit that I felt drawn into. This author is definitely is a name to look out for. Additive gripping fabulous. It certainly wasn't what I expected, and loved the characters and animals included. A fascinating murder mystery, with added humour. I loved this book, it's a new author for me to try, like always I love a challenge. The story never failed me from the start. After a body is found in the grounds of a isolated house, who is responsible?. A fabulous who dunnit that I felt drawn into. This author is definitely is a name to look out for. Additive gripping fabulous. It certainly wasn't what I expected, and loved the characters and animals included.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gizem-in-Wonderland

    Special thanks to the author Victoria Dowd, Joffe Books and NetGalley for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review. A murder mystery book should not be this much fun. I was laughing out loud until the first murder and even after. If you are planning to read this, you need to prepare yourself for an unconventional murder story with several feral females, each with unique annoying traits that will make you wish you were a murderer. This novel fulfills everything the title suggests and m Special thanks to the author Victoria Dowd, Joffe Books and NetGalley for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review. A murder mystery book should not be this much fun. I was laughing out loud until the first murder and even after. If you are planning to read this, you need to prepare yourself for an unconventional murder story with several feral females, each with unique annoying traits that will make you wish you were a murderer. This novel fulfills everything the title suggests and more. If you’re looking for a bone-chilling cocktail of Cristie and King, it may fall not satisfy your needs but if you’re a soft rookie like me in crime-fiction in search of a fun time, this is book serves this purpose beautifully. Dowd’s style and narration, her wry humor, wit and on the spot hilarious and acrimonious remarks combined with a level of sarcasm I am not used to in crime-fiction novels turned this book into a one of a kind reading experience. Definitely recommended for the fans of the genre and I am looking forward to the second book of the series! Well done Victoria Dowd!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Nash

    A fantastic read which not only brings a classic ' Who done it' into modern times but cleverly explores relationship dynamics within a group of six women. Witty and difficult to put down, crossing my fingers for another. A fantastic read which not only brings a classic ' Who done it' into modern times but cleverly explores relationship dynamics within a group of six women. Witty and difficult to put down, crossing my fingers for another.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is a brilliant book! For anyone who adores atmospheric country house crime. The author is immersed in Agatha Christie as well as more contemporary detective fiction, using this for telling modern-day twists. The future of crime drama is here for intelligent women and men everywhere.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Delilah

    Overall a wonderful read, playing on tropes from the 1920’s to today. Very humorous and all in all a very pleasant experience, 10/10 would recommend to any Agatha Christie or crime-thriller lovers.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eva 🌻

    DNF at 10%. I'm a bit embarrassed by this but I couldn't bring myself to go further. I just didn't "get it" right from the beginning. The writing style is very odd, I don't know how to describe it but I found it convoluted. The characters were odd and unlikeable. It didn't make sense as the murder is right from the beginning? The book just seemed to be trying too hard to be confusing and mysterious, perhaps that's what it is going for and I'm just not on that level. I was skimming through from 5 DNF at 10%. I'm a bit embarrassed by this but I couldn't bring myself to go further. I just didn't "get it" right from the beginning. The writing style is very odd, I don't know how to describe it but I found it convoluted. The characters were odd and unlikeable. It didn't make sense as the murder is right from the beginning? The book just seemed to be trying too hard to be confusing and mysterious, perhaps that's what it is going for and I'm just not on that level. I was skimming through from 5%. I found the language used to be very extra and unnecessary. I hope others like it better! Thanks to NetGalley for the free preview in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Books 'n' All Promotions

    Ursula was there when her Dad died and is left traumatised. She lives with her domineering mother, Pandora. They set off to a Book Club retreat at a mansion house in the middle of nowhere along with Joy (nicknamed Less), Mirabelle, Charlotte (Pandora's sister), Bridget and her dog named Mr Bojangles. They arrive to be met by Mr and Mrs Angel an elderly couple who are employed by the missing owner. The 6 women don't really like each other which brings humour to the story. Bridget is expecting the Ursula was there when her Dad died and is left traumatised. She lives with her domineering mother, Pandora. They set off to a Book Club retreat at a mansion house in the middle of nowhere along with Joy (nicknamed Less), Mirabelle, Charlotte (Pandora's sister), Bridget and her dog named Mr Bojangles. They arrive to be met by Mr and Mrs Angel an elderly couple who are employed by the missing owner. The 6 women don't really like each other which brings humour to the story. Bridget is expecting the book club retreat to involve discussion of the book but the women don't seem to want to do that. The first evening's entertainment is a fortune teller which doesn't go down too well with some. As the snow begins to fall the women realise they are stranded in a house in the middle of nowhere with very strange hosts and no way of communicating with the outside world - then they find the dead body of the fortune teller who is revealed to be someone Pandora and Ursula know from their past. In a twisty turny journey the women try to work out who killed the fortune teller. It has to be one of them or the Angels. Then there is another tragedy. This is not a fast paced book but it is intriguing. I had each of the women tagged as guilty several times before changing my mind and choosing a different one only to find that was wrong too. Very unique characters some I didn't like some I found plain annoying but they all worked to make this a gripping read and I found myself turning page after page.

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