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Murder Most Confusing

Death falls into the lap of the main character of Marni Bates’ Dial Em for Murder—literally.

Murder Most Confusing

BOOK REPORT for Dial Em for Murder by Marni Bates

Cover Story: Old Timey
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Missing Somethings
Anti-Bonus Factor: Open Ending
Relationship Status: Swipe Left

Cover Story: Old Timey

Someone had fun with the Photoshop filters while working on this cover. I can sort of see what they were going for—a throwback to old, Agatha Christie murder mysteries, maybe—but there’s nothing about this cover that ties to the story within. Even the tagline is wrong; the main character is an aspiring romance author, not a mystery one. (And I know this distinction is important, since it comes up more than once in the book.)

The Deal:

Emmy Danvers is minding her own business in a Starbucks, trying to work on her latest romance novel, when an old man accosts her … and then dies after tackling her to the ground. Emmy’s life is turned upside down after the incident, and she finds herself in the middle of a mystery she absolutely never wanted to be a part of.

BFF Charm: Meh

I appreciate Emmy’s love of the written word, and her imagination, particularly when it comes to daydreaming about the guy she likes, is pretty great. Sadly, I didn’t feel any real connection to her. She’s smart and resourceful, but she makes really dumb decisions that had me shaking my head. She hides things from the authorities, barely keeps in touch with her family and friends—even though she knows they’re worried about her—and jumps into situations without thinking about the consequences. Her reservations are oddly specific, too, and misguided; she’ll put her trust in someone she barely knows, but sideline the people who she’s relied upon most for her entire life. Although, were I her best friend, I might be glad when she keeps me out of her drama.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Emmy has feelings for her best friend, Ben, but “knows” that he doesn’t feel the same way. She loves how he’s always been there for her, no matter what, but he can be kind of a dick at times, mansplaining to Emmy what she should/shouldn’t do as if he was in her shoes.

There’s also Sebastian St. James, a total bad boy rich kid (who has the most bad boy rich kid name ever). Emmy hates him and pretty much all that he stands for, but there’s no denying that bad boys have a certain appeal.

Talky Talk: Missing Somethings

At first, the plot of Dial Em for Murder seems pretty straightforward (as far as mysteries go). An elderly man dies on Emmy in a Starbucks, but not before he can leave her cryptic messages about her life being in danger. There’s a mystery afoot, and Emmy’s hot on the case.

But things get muddied quickly after chapter one. Emmy is given the opportunity to attend a prestigious boarding school seemingly for no reason other than that “they have a good security system,” and no one seems to question her luck in the matter. Even when it’s revealed that the dead guy was a benefactor of the school, and had a weird fascination with Emmy that she didn’t know about, things still don’t add up. There are a lot of plot holes in the novel, and the story could have benefitted from a lot more world building—Emmy once mentions that she’s in New York, but nothing about the story's atmosphere backs that up; the boarding school is somewhere outside of the city and features a bunch of grand buildings, but it’s hard to picture anything more than a generic college campus.

Emmy herself is a writer, and occasionally works through situations by “writing” passages in her mind. She often dismisses them as terrible, but it’s really a case of needing to learn more and refine her craft. Dial Em for Murder would have benefitted from some of the same attention.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Open Ending

As I neared the end of the novel, I got progressively more worried that the ending would wrap the mystery up in too neat of a bow. Instead, reading the final pages, I found myself with more questions than answers, and—unfortunately—no real desire to figure them out.

Casting Call:

Aimee Teegarden as Emmy

Relationship Status: Swipe Left

Most times, Book, you go into a date hopeful that you’ll have things in common with the other person or experience a bit of chemistry. We didn’t have either, and that’s a shame. I hope you’re able to find that spark with someone else, but I’m cool with chalking our time together up as experience and moving on—separately.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Merit Press, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Dial Em for Murder is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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