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The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

Are we ready for our first Christmas Countdown mystery? Let’s celebrate 20 days until Christmas with:

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus: A Novel by Beth Moore

Thoughts Before Reading:

This is Beth Moore’s first novel after years of nonfiction. It was something new, but something she had been thinking about doing for a while.

It was suggested by my sister blog after she read it for book club. It isn’t a Christmas centered mystery, but does have important scenes that take place at Christmas, so I thought I would set it out for our first review.

Jillian Slater is living in San Francisco in an controlling and very bad relationship. But when she discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her she is hit hard and unsure of what to do.

Then she receives a call that her long estranged father is dead.

And that her grandmother, the ice queen, who she also hasn’t seen in over twenty years is offering to pay her way to New Orleans so she could attend the funeral.

As her life is currently in shambles, Jillian decides to take it.

However, there is a lot that was kept from her. It turns out that the housekeeper, Adella Atwater, came up with the idea for a family reunion, not her grandmother, Olivia.

It also turns out that she lives in an church turned boarding house-full of all kinds of characters. There is David a forty-year old bachelor and music teacher; Carrie a student in medical school and always studying or working; and an elderly dementia suffering woman.

With no money, no reason to go back to San Francisco, and not sure what to do…she remains in the house.

Meanwhile, the New Orleans Police Department have been looking into the murder of Jillian’s father, Raphael. But while they try to uncover a killer, a lot of other strange things start happening. Baby things are left outside the house, someone tries to break into the house, things go missing, etc. The NOPD spend a lot of time coming to the house trying to figure out what does this all mean? A sentiment shared by the rest of the residents.

Besides that Saint Silvanus holds a secret from its first beginning as a church. Will it be revealed?

Will Jillian ever learn the truth about her fathers death? Will she grow to enjoy living in Saint Silvanus? Will her family rifts be mended? Or torn further apart?

Through in a life changing Christmas concert and last supper, and this book has everything.

Thoughts After Reading:

I didn’t love this book.

Jillian bugged me, a LOT. First she is unsure what to do when she comes across the homeless. She has never had to deal with such things and finds the “sour smells” of the city unbearable. Come on now. I am from California and have been to San Francisco many times. I have been everywhere from the high price areas to the touristy ones and there are homeless EVERYWHERE. They hide in bushes and jump out to surprise you; walk out into traffic; are on every street corner along with “sour” smells. I don’t know what San Francisco Moore encountered but that sounds nothing like the one in California. Jillian should have experienced this numerous times and know how to deal with it.

And what happened with the church?

So throughout the novel, Moore has the story of the church’s beginning and the first pastor intersecting with the story of Jillian. But she never really says why this matters to the characters as they have no connection to each other and they never say who killed the minister. Was it suicide or murder?

There were also a lot of little details missing as Moore doesn’t always describe her characters. For instance she calls Jillian “dark”. Dark hair? Dark skin? Mexican? African-American? Greek? Spanish? Italian? Black hair? Brown? Chestnut? I know it is her first time writing a “novel” so it makes sense there are a few kinks.

The mystery also isn’t very mysterious. I knew as soon as the character entered the picture. It was extremely obvious the way they acted was not normal.

But there was something I did like: the characters.

The characters were amazing! I loved every single one and each felt extremely lifelike and ones you would meet in real life.

They all had their own hangups, issues, and backgrounds that were relatable-either to you or reminded you of someone you know. They made the book interesting, a page turner, and had you feel at home in Saint Silvanus.

This in itself made the book worth reading.

For more Christmas mysteries, go to Gingerbread Cookie Murder

For more mysteries not in a series, go to The Manchurian Candidate

For more Christian mysteries, go to Everbody Loved Roger Harlan

For more mysteries set in New Orleans, go to Triple Six

Carrot Cake Murder

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Carrot Cake Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery #10) by Joanne Fluke

I did not like this book.

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I thought the story wasn’t that good and very under developed. And that the author went for an easy ending, instead of creating something that made sense and was actually mysterious.

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This was extremely lackluster and boring.

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But review I must.

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Plot Synopsis:

So it is summertime and Lisa and Herb are having a big family reunion, inviting every single relation. It is a huge affair and Hannah, her family, and two boyfriends are also joining the crew.

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One person that Herb’s mom Marge’s long-lost brother Gus who took off years ago never to be found, ends up showing up to the party.

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He  said he was just in the area and happened among some flyers and thought he would join the group. He has a a lot of money and fancy suits.

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However, at the reunion a lot of old hurts come up. Gus was a master manipulator, a borrower and not returner, and a blackmailer. He has a lot of people that he has upset over the years.

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He asks Hannah for her special carrot cake as he just loves it, and Hannah gives him a whole one.

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The next day no one can find Gus for the group picture, so they of course send Hannah and she finds the dead body.

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So let’s start with what was wrong in this book.

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A) If It Is Such a Big Party With So Many to Feed, Why Are Hannah & Family & Boyfriends Included?

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I know that Hannah and such are great friends of Lisa and Herb, but it seems weird to invite so many non-family members to a family event. I mean it is not just a few people but Hannah, her sister Andrea, her husband Bill, their two children, Bill’s mother, Hannah’s mother Dolores, Hannah’s sister Michelle, Michelle’s boyfriend Lonnie, Hannah’s boyfriend Mike, Hannah’s boyfriend Norman, and Norman’s mom.

What?

Do they really need a dozen more people, at a family only event? No. And Hannah is helping to cook means she should come, yeah her but why are there 11 extra with her? It is just another plot by the author to have Hannah a part of everything that goes on in her town.

seriously

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B) Gus Just Happened To See the Reunion On A Flyer

Come on, Mack

Why do they have flyers to a family only event that they sent marked mailers to? You are not expecting the whole town to come, why paper the streets?

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C) Hannah Goes On A Huge Derail On the Size And Weight Of Hockey Pucks

What?

Sometimes I feel as if Fluke is paid by the word or something. She is constantly derail on the weirdest subjects, weird as in THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PLOT! I’m tired of it, please STOP!!!!

Stop this stupid love triangle!

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D) Don’t Eat Hannah’s Food, You Will Die

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I’m pretty sure in every, single book the person dies eating Hannah’s food. All I can think is why hasn’t anyone made the correlation and Hannah have gone out of business already. Eat her signature dish and you might be signing your death warrant.

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E) Hannah Finds Another Dead Body

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In almost every book Hannah finds the dead body. It is boring! Come on Fluke, change it up.

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F) Mike & Hannah Drama Continues

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In every book Hannah complains about Mike not being a great boyfriend because he won’t let her investigate with him. What do you think Hannah, that any cop would love to have an amateur bungling things and getting evidence illegally. Listen up Hannah, why don’t you become a real cop or private investigator, and then Mike will leave you alone.

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G) Rocky Road S’Mores?

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Lisa makes a bar cookie she calls Rocky Road Bar Cookies, after the Rocky Road Ice-Cream.  She puts nuts, marshmallows, chocolate, etc.; the same ingredients in the ice-cream. Hannah tries it and says that it tastes like S’mores

What?

What kinda S’mores are you making Hannah? They don’t have nuts. And they have graham crackers in it instead.

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H) I Have Never Had A S’More Before

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Lisa tells Hannah she has never had a S’more before which makes no sense. Every store that sells food sells the fixing for s’mores. Hershey’s advertises it on TV as soon as we hit May, so does Honey Maid, etc. I cannot believe she has never tried a S’more “because she didn’t learn in girl scouts”. Get real.

seriously

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I) Red Velvet Cookies Cure Alzheimer’s

Come on, Mack

As someone who has multiple family members who suffer from the disease, words cannot describe how deeply hurt and offended I am at you even suggesting that, whether it is in jest or not.

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J) Randomness That DOES NOT ADD TO THE STORY!

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We spend too much time on random acronyms to remember Native American tribes, the Great Lakes, colors of the rainbow. Just stop!

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K) Mexican Hotdish Mexican Not Dish

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Your Mexican Hotdish isn’t even Mexican. Jack cheese? White rice? Fritos corn chips? Offensive to the Max! If anything it is Tex-Mex. Get it right.

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L) Don’t These People Have Jobs?

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Man Hannah and Norman spend so much time NOT working I wonder how they can provide for themselves.  I mean Norman just decides to fly to Atlantic City, doesn’t he need to work? Doesn’t Hannah? I mean it is one thing to work investigating around work, but these guys just totally disregard it.

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M) Exposition, Exposition, Exposition to Make the End Work

In the last 42 pages we get this big exposition rush about one of Lisa’s relations who is bad at the stock market and wasted away the money, mean to his wife, mad that Gus won’t give the money he borrowed from his wife back, blah, blah, blah. Listen Fluke, you do this a lot and it is horrible. I don’t know if you can’t decide on a killer or feel you need a “twist” for the reader but it is really bad, really bad.

Not-Good

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N) If He is So Horrible Why Are You Still Married?

What?

So Peggy is the wife of the murderer and the deliverer of the exposition about how Mac is totally the murderer. You go on about how horrible and threatening he is, why are you still married? Why don;t you leave.

And if you love him as much as you say and act, why are you so willing to give him up to the police. It just didn’t make any sense and felt like Fluke was rushed and just did the ending the night before it was due to print.

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O) Ross is Back

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This bland saltine of a man is back? Seriously? Come on, just stop. Isn’t it enough you have two guys fighting over Hannah, do we have to include another guy who is blander than a heart patient’s diet?

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Thoughts After Reading:

Hated it. Two out of Five stars.

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For more Hannah Swenson Mysteries, go to Candy Cane Murder

For more reviews, go to Grave Peril