Book Review – The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder by Victoria Dowd

What a small book to hold so much…


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. 


A locked room mystery where everyone in the room hates one another with passion and drive…

‘Don’t judge book by the cover’. This rule was made for this book and vice versa. It looked like a nice cozy mystery with the cover of lampshade and nice colours. However, it turned out to be anything but…

I am yet to read a book where I did not like a single character. A bunch of middle-aged women and a twenty-something daughter of one of them, butler and housekeeper, fortune teller and even the dog – they were all antagonising to say the least.

I even wanted them all to be killed one by one just like in Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ but…

This book reads very smoothly and very quickly. It is not a light read and is full of deep passages and places that are worthy of a quote or two. But it reads well and is mysterious and suspenseful not to be put down until the end.

Secrets, lies, cover ups, misplaced trust, childhood trauma, rotten and vengeful characters, greed for money reader will get a taste of it all. The ties, knots and break ups of relationships, mother-daughter warpet relationship and daughter’s bottomless depression aided by secret in the Bible will keep you guessing and trying to pin your allegiance to the very end.

Author has done an amazing job with the setting. The house and the grounds are so murky, cold, dusty and hungry (yes, even house seems hungry for blood), isolated and encapsulated that nothing light, bright, positive or life-affirming can happen there. There is not enough food. And food is far from being nice and ‘country manor’ like.

This book-club weekend where the rule of the book club is ‘you do not talk about the book’ and where participants hate each others guts is just what doctor ordered in the time of quarantine and isolation. You are going to feel better no matter what (anything is better than to find oneself in that house).

Five stars from me.

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