Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Before this morning, I didn’t think any of our friends could be capable of murder. But a dead body says otherwise.”
I was definitely due to read another mystery and I wasn’t disappointed with this gem of a book! Chris McDonald has created the ultimate modern-day Sherlock Holmes murder mystery that you can sit down and enjoy in the space of a few hours. It may be a short read, but it sure packs a punch and will have you laughing and guessing until the last page (and beyond!) So happy to be sharing my review on this blog tour – make sure you check out the reviews from all these other brilliant reviewers!
Wedding bells are chiming in the idyllic, coastal town of Stonebridge. For Sam and Emily, it should be the happiest day of their lives. But, on the morning of the ceremony, the best man is found dead. The police quickly write his death off as a tragic accident, but something doesn’t seem right to wedding guest and groomsman, Adam Whyte.
Armed with an encyclopedic, but ultimately ridiculous knowledge of television detective shows and an unwarranted confidence in his own abilities, Adam and his best friend (and willing Watson) Colin, set out to uncover what actually happened to Daniel Costello.
I got mega Sherlock Holmes vibes when I saw the cover for this book, but when I read the opening to the story, I got a very different, modern-day feel! This wasn’t a negative by a long shot – I loved how the author’s wit shone through and the personality of each character was portrayed so well, especially Adam, and the way he acted in front of his mother! (We’ll move on to this guy a bit later…) The opening introduces us to Sam, a soon to be husband to Emily, but the way he acts on his stag do could only mean trouble… and his best man swears to keep it a secret. The start of the story successfully grabbed me, held my attention and made me curious about what we were going to discover in this book, and I loved how unique and unlike anything of its kind it was. Give me more!
The author has a really cool tone of voice (I can’t really think of any other way to describe it) which just makes each page of the book an absolutely joy to read. Even though the humour and entertainment factor is spot on, you can also tell the murder mystery aspect of the book will be thrilling and addictive too, even so early on in the book. With Sam and Emily’s wedding getting closer, I felt like an incident was imminent. Who would soon be meeting their maker?! Adam and Colin, two guests at the wedding would soon be more significant to the story than they realise at first, and I loved their back and forth banter. In fact, each character we’d met up to this point was brilliantly created and had me invested right from the start. Was anyone safe? And would Sam’s mistake be kept a secret?
“A drop of blood was one thing. A dead body was something new altogether.”
It’s clear Sam’s best man, Daniel Costello, isn’t the most popular guy at the wedding, especially with Adam and Colin. The more we learn about him, the more we can see how he’d get a bit annoying to others, even to Sam, as he seems to jokingly threaten to expose his secret. I even had a feeling he might, especially after a drink or two! The more we get to know Adam, however, the more it seems as though he knows he can better himself – he’d dropped out of university and wasn’t at the same level (in both career and life) as his peers. Little did he know that he’d be stepping into a pretty serious unofficial role of his own very shortly with Colin by his side, something the pair never even dreamed of. Our very own Holmes and Watson!
After a brief altercation between Sam and Danny Costello, we know something isn’t right. So does Adam, who managed to see these goings on from afar. Just what had caused the argument and would this mean there would be a missing person at tomorrow’s wedding?! I knew the murder we’d all been waiting for would soon be revealed, and I was getting more and more excited for the characters to play Detective. The book is fast paced but I don’t think this hindered the story in any way. It just made it impossible to put the book down! The beginning of the book is written well with plenty to keep readers guessing and even gives us the odd laugh every now and then! I thought all this combined made the perfect recipe for a good murder mystery.
The lead up to Danny’s fate was well written, leaving us keen to find out some answers. The putrid smells and the horrifying scenes as Adam finds his lifeless body was described well enough to turn anyone’s stomach, and I was already nervous for Adam’s announcement to Sam and Colin. How would they react? Could someone we know have murdered Danny, or was it a stranger, someone we don’t expect? From this moment on, the story took a much different turn – the hunt was on to find the culprit. However, the author’s brilliant tone of voice stays consistent and it really made the characters’ journey more memorable for me. I don’t think I could pick out a favourite character at this point – I loved them all the same and thought they all had a unique charm about them!
The authorities arrive to inspect the scene of the death and I couldn’t help but notice something didn’t seem right. The officers sent to check things out seemed to rush through things, assuming Danny had choked on his own vomit and died as a result. This didn’t explain the messy room however, or the facial injuries… was something else going on? Detective hats on, Adam and Colin take it in their stride to do the work that isn’t being done and try to find a more accurate solution. I would personally have liked the discovery of the body and the investigation scenes to have been drawn out a little more, but we still get all the information we need. With the wedding still going ahead, Adam and Colin are now on a deadline to find out what really happened. I knew we were in for a treat!
“Adam would never forget the glassy eyes or the translucent skin or the smell that TV shows never managed to capture. No one ever threw up after discovering a body either.”
I felt like setting out a big case board of who any potential suspects were and their whereabouts in Adam and Colin’s ‘investigation’ and I was desperate to join in on some of their discussions! It was clear, even though their friend had been murdered, that they were absolutely loving the fact that they could finally play Detective together. All those episodes of Sherlock would surely help them out… right?! I loved how the pair begin to interrogate other characters in the book and it was pretty fun as a reader to analyse each piece of evidence and the information we learn. The author always keeps things interesting, intriguing and fun and the book was turning out to be an addictive little read! It’s also clear this genre is perfect for the author, and the passion for it just bursts from every page!
The clues kept on coming and I quickly became mesmerised with just how one clue flowed to the next, each creating the overall picture of what happened to Daniel Costello. Even though the story felt pretty light up to now, things were a bit more complex here, but each scene seemed to be so organised and put together very well. Revisiting the crime scene gave us a whole new sense of excitement and filled my head with new possibilities. I spent ages mulling over things (I have a tendency to try and solve a crime before the characters in the book do) and it really kept me guessing! As great as the investigation was, I needed to know for sure who the culprit was, and I was looking forward to seeing the direction the author took for the finale.
With Adam and Colin still far from catching the culprit, they continue to do what they can to gather more evidence, including trying to get some quality footage from the petrol station’s CCTV cameras. I seemed to be flicking through the pages faster and faster here, desperate to find something, anything that could help them to pin the blame on the right person and send them down! To my delight, we finally make progress here and I really enjoyed how their luck seemed to change. The author’s brilliant description and suspenseful paragraphs continue here and I became more and more confident that the pair would get to the bottom of this mystery. Time was running out as Sam and Emily’s wedding loomed… would they get the dream wedding they wanted, or was it impossible under the circumstances?
The author continues to surprise us, even so close to the end of the book. Some of the routes Adam and Colin take to get the answers they need were very clever, especially how they obtained the information regarding the owner of a very significant vehicle in the investigation. Weddings are obviously supposed to be a time of love and happiness, but the author has given Sam and Emily’s wedding celebrations a pretty dark edge which I loved! It was quite the experience knowing what was going on in the background when the rest of the guests were oblivious and just trying to enjoy themselves after the shocking discovery of Daniel’s body. Excitement pretty much takes over at this point!
“Whoever murdered Danny would be brought to justice tonight, he was sure of it, and for that he needed a clear head.”
With one suspect in mind and with some pretty solid clues in place after doing a bit of sneaking around, we reach the ultimate climax – the big confrontation! I was getting nervous for Adam and Colin and exactly what would happen when they found themselves face to face with their suspect. Would this person ever admit what they had done? Would they be in danger? Or, had they even got the right person?! I couldn’t predict what would happen at this point in the book and the author has done a brilliant job of not only keeping readers guessing, but also making us not want to stop reading either. It takes some talent and a damn good author to do that! The characters have been great all the way through and I just hope they’d do themselves proud in the end.
The final chapter was absolutely brilliant and how Adam and Colin manage to bring down the right person was pretty damn good! Everything seemed to fall effortlessly into place and I thought it was a fantastic end to a humourous and addictive novella. The ending of the book ties the whole investigation up nicely, and even gave me a few ideas for where the next book in the series could go and exactly what these characters would go through next. Would they go through anything as horrifying as seeing their friend get murdered? Probably! A solid four star read that I’d recommend to crime and murder mystery fans, as well as those who like a bit of humour too!
Chris McDonald knows exactly what readers want in a murder mystery, and delivers this with a unique tone of voice, an intriguing story line and a good handful of humour too! Even though the book is a shorter read than most, the author doesn’t disappoint – he instead brings us a mystery we can really put our minds to and completely lose ourselves in, and as the first book in the Stonebridge Mysteries series, we’re off to a great start! Really looking forward to reading the next book in the series and it’ll be interesting to see which direction the author takes with it. A brilliant short read that can be read in a day or two, and I can easily see myself re-reading this one!
Huge thanks to the author of the book, Chris McDonald, and Red Dog Press for my copy to read and review! You can purchase your own copy of The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello on Amazon or the Red Dog Press website now. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for updates!