Image of two sets of binoculars looking through window blinds. Text says "MOTHER-DAUGHTER MURDER NIGHT a novel NINA SIMON." Cover blurb text: 'No novel has ever made family drama (or murder) this much fun.' KATY HAYS, New York Times Bestselling author of The Cloisters."

Mother-Daughter Murder Night

MOTHER-DAUGHTER MURDER NIGHT rating: 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐.

At the heart of MOTHER-DAUGHTER MURDER NIGHT by Nina Simon (William Morrow/HarperCollins, September 5, 2023), are three generations of strong women in one family: Lana, Beth, and Jack. I just fell in love with these characters. I was also enthralled by the setting: Elkhorn Slough in Monterey Bay, California.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Netgalley and HarperCollins for sending me a copy of this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Beth’s tranquil life is upended when her mother, real estate mogul Lana, moves into Beth’s beach bungalow after a cancer diagnosis. Her daughter, free-spirited Jack, discovers a corpse while leading a kayaking tour, creating further disruption in the family of three. Discovering that the dead man was murdered and that her granddaughter may be a suspect, Lana discovers a direction for her boundless energy: amateur detective work.

Neither Beth nor the police are enthusiastic about Lana’s new mission. Jack wants to help Lana, and Beth wants to protect her daughter. While Beth doesn’t think she is much like Lana, Jack thinks they have a lot in common with each other–and with her.

Every potential murder suspect is keeping secrets on both sides of the Elkhorn Slough, and Lana may have finally found a project too big for even her to tackle as environmental preservation and corporate development interests collide, which appear to be closely connected with the murder victim. There is plenty of family drama coming into play, which I found to be very realistic, being in the middle generation, like Beth.

This is a first-rate mystery, and I say this as a mystery fan for four decades who has read hundreds of them. The identity of the murderer surprised me, the red herrings were well executed, and the big climax at the end was terrifying. The reader can feel that Simon is writing from a place of deep love for the characters and the setting. The characters are based on Simon, her mother, and her daughter, and the setting is a beautiful place with which she is familiar. Very artfully done and highly recommended. I can’t believe this is Simon’s first novel.

Reading context:

I haven’t read a denouement this gripping since THE HOUSE ON VESPER SANDS by Paraic O’Donnell, one of my favorite novels of 2021 (USA release by W. W. Norton). Another strong-willed, bored, mother of a certain age that goes a bit off the rails trying to solve a murder is Vera Wong, the hilarious and lovable star of VERA WONG’S UNSOLICITED ADVICE FOR MURDERERS by Jesse Q. Sutanto (Berkeley/Penguin Random House, March 14, 2023).

Spirited seniors doing the unexpected are one of my favorite trends in fiction, and I will be reading, and blogging more about, novels with this theme.

Two of my favorite current series about female sleuths are historical mystery series: The Sparks & Bainbridge series by Allison Montclair (postwar London) from Macmillan, and the Pentecost and Parker series by Stephen Spotswood (postwar New York) from Penguin Random House.

What I’m reading right now:

THE MYSTERY GUEST by Nita Prose (Penguin Random House, November 28, 2023), the second book in the Molly the Maid series.

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