Title: Goodly and Grave in a Deadly Case of Murder
Series: Goodly and Grave series #2
Author: Justine Windsor
Genre: middle grade, mystery and detective stories, fantasy and magic
Publishing date: July 27, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase this book: The Book Depository
After a series of graves have been robbed, Lucy, a magician apprentice joins the MAAM (Magicians Against the Abuse of Magic) to help Lord Graves help solve the mystery. Yet things get complicated once important magical objects disappear and the suspects are murdered.
Goodly and Grave in a Deadly Case of Murder is the second installment in the Goodly and Grave series. I haven’t read the first book, yet it was easy to understand the world they lived in and the relation between all characters. My opinion of this book varied as I read it, although for the most part it was negative or average. When I first saw the novel, I really wanted to like it; it had many good reviews and the previous novel seemed to be a success. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The plot in itself is very interesting, however, the execution was clumsy and boring. Only in the last 20% , the writing style changed somehow and the description of the scene was admirable, with moments of tension and suspense. I loved that section but was quickly disappointed again, as the closing pages recovered the previous, sloppy writing. I give the novel a redeeming 3 star rating because of that section, otherwise, I would have given it 2 stars.
Apart from that last section full of enjoyable suspense, I really liked the illustrations. They caught my attention from the first time that I saw the novel and they were a nice bonus to the story.
The thing that irked me the most was the cop-outs of Harry Potter. I understand that there is nothing new under the sun but the novel had certain elements that seemed deliberately copied from the Harry Potter world. I will list some, including the reference to HP in parenthesis: short-cutting (apparition), erasing memory (obliviate), Grave’s contraption that announces the presence of something mistrustful (sneakerscope), the chit (owl post), magic leaving traces, room of curiosities (room of requirement), lower magicians called “unclean” (mudbloods), flying carriage that becomes invisible (flying and invisible Ford Anglia), and also the fact that Lucy did not know she had the ability to animate but accidentally did it once before (like Harry speaking parsel tongue). I was really bothered by all these similarities because they showed lack of originality in the construction of the world inside the novel and seemed to be taken as something that is proven to be appealing to audiences.
The characters were uninteresting; there was no description about them or any particular trait that differentiated one from another. I found the protagonist unlikeable, arrogant, and plain. She was often described as very clever (Hermione cop-out?) but she never showed such cleverness and when she thought she did, she made awful mistakes.
There were too many dialogues and little description, so characters, settings, and plot felt empty, sometimes even lacking a purpose. The novel is apparently set in the Victorian era (the studies on fingerprints are mentioned) but nothing about the description confirms such setting. It is understandable that the writing might not replicate victorian language but still, it felt void of any characteristic of the era, especially in relation to gender roles, clothing, setting, etc.
The novel takes on a moralistic bipartite view of the world, with characters either being 100% good or 100% evil. The fact that the protagonist’s last name is Goodly, doesn’t help matters. I felt it simplistic.
I found the language to be clumsy. The novel made me roll my eyes a lot, especially in relation to the dialogue. Moments of tension did not feel as such, the only exception being the final 20% of the novel, which was truly well written.
As I liked the novel in theory but not in practice, I would not recommend this novel. There are other alternatives that have more control of the narrative, character construction, and setting. Nevertheless, the book has some good moments and it did have a redeeming and enjoyable moment. So, if you want a quick read and like mysteries and detectives, read this book. I would have liked this book more if the targeted audience were younger children (7-10 years instead of 11+); I believe that as a middle grade novel, it falls short. If this was targeted for younger audiences, it would provoke more awe and suspense and, reading it for such audience, I would definitely recommend the novel.
* Disclaimer: I received this book for free on Net Galley in exchange for an honest review