Tight, polished and clever. This is a well-crafted mystery, a variation on the classic whodunit with all the suspects in a big mansion—except that mansion is being used for a reality TV shoot, not an English country house gathering.
The four finalists in a contest to have one’s soap opera of a life become an actual soap opera script each take turns sharing their stories—the ones that made them finalists, and their take on events after the director of that soap opera is murdered. The fifth narrator is the director’s low-ranking assistant, Jeremy. He is the only fully sympathetic character but that is clearly intentional. The competitors each have flaws that make them candidates to have their life belong in the storyline of Crystal Falls.
This unusual structure of five narrators alternating short chapters works well for creating questions as to who the killer is. Although I felt compassion for the characters, the structure didn’t create a strong relationship for the reader with any particular “hero.” Jeremy is technically the protagonist—he begins and ends the story—but the other four also have their personal plot lines. They are to some extent Jeremy’s antagonists, but more so, each other’s. The book presented a puzzle for me to try to solve, and I enjoyed it as such.
Perhaps because some of the interpersonal conflict faded, I never felt that anyone was ever in danger. Each of the narrators sold me on his or her own innocence. I puzzled over it, but never worried. This wasn’t a problem, just an unexpected feature in a murder mystery with a killer on the loose.
The characters evolve believably—they do not become that different, but they do acquire some subtle insights. Realistic. The end is fairly realistic, too, dramatic while avoiding the clichés found at the ends of a lot of murder mysteries (sudden confessions, convenient disposal of the bad guy).
Free of grammatical or typographical errors.
Minor annoyance: the big asymmetrical dot with tiny line around it that is used as a marker between scenes is puzzling, at least on my device. I began to think of it as the rolling walnut. Maybe it’s really a graphic that didn't translate into e-pub.
But that's trivial. This is a quick, engaging read.