THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace is all aces in TFF’s book, and this preview review aims to uncover some of what makes this engaging mystery so damn good, without lifting the veil too much.
This story is one of the more perplexing murder mysteries you may come across, combining new, thrilling elements with style!
Agatha Christie would love Schillace’s THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE.
Not only are the brilliant and extremely engaging facets to this case enveloping, but solving a murder by antique pistol, as well as the mysterious disappearance of a rare Ardemore family portrait that may be connected, prove to be difficult entanglements that unwind in wholly unexpected ways and leaves the reader feverishly turning pages to follow the threads.
The following Preview Book Review of THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace is SPOILER-FREE.
Schillace’s characters, from the outsider-protagonist Jo Jones, to the Detective Inspector MacAdams with his inferiority complex due to his divorce, to Gwilym the young antique and hobby collector, and to the brazen Irish innkeeper and fellow outsider, Tula, they all stand up with great intrigue and pack a punch.
To ramble a little, characters are the lifeblood of fiction, with few memorable exceptions.
The one I come back to frequently is the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, because it simultaneously thwarts the rules by creating a compelling and innovative pillar of science-fiction without (I argue, though some disagree) characters being central to the story told over the course of centuries.
I appreciate Foundation for that, but my favorite work of Asimov is and will always be THE END OF ETERNITY.
Aside from being used for near every time travel tale post-H.G. Wells, THE END OF ETERNITY has memorable and incredibly realistic characters that you root for.
They make you love the story.
Just as each character in THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE stands out in their own ways and brings you on a wholly uncharted journey to a murder / painting mystery, this too is a story to love.
The young American woman, Jo, inherits an old estate with a decrepit English manor house that holds her in uncomfortable territory.
She finds hidden in a locked room what appears to be an Ardemore family portrait of an unknown relative that was taken from the library for some reason.
Shortly thereafter, it is stolen.
And then a body turns up.
The neurodivergent Jo felt like an outsider before she becomes a suspect in the murder, and that feeling only grows as she attempts to solve the crimes and find out who was the Ardemore mystery woman.
The witty, charming, and intelligent character of Jo is thirsty for answers.
And despite her difficulty overcoming a not-too-distant divorce with a husband that continually reminded her of her autism and her behavioral faux pas – some of which she deems may be fair and some of which are certainly not – she collects herself time and again and proves to be insightful, well-read, and courageous as she presses on.
The insight into the way this character thinks is exciting, and makes me feel like I am privy to a behind the scenes look into the methods of Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes that is essential to their effectiveness in solving a crime.
Schillace’s Jo Jones is flawed and extremely realistic.
The ways in which Jo reflects on how she thinks – especially using memories of her experiences to guide her – makes for a refreshing new perspective into someone who is on the spectrum and not just surviving society, but thriving despite it.
In a touching moment, the Irish innkeeper speaks of leaving her home and landing in England as an outsider, like Jo, and then the younger woman reveals a fun and difficult attribute:
“Words have just always been my people…and I don’t forget them after I read them.
“Ever? Like a photographic memory?” Tula asked. Jo scrunched up her nose. She’d never liked the term.
“It doesn’t work like that. I can recite from most of the books I’ve read–but it has to be triggered…sometimes the connections I see aren’t really there…but sometimes it means I see connections other people can’t see.”
The marked self-reflection makes the reader empathize with Jo in a deeply impactful way.
Despite the social difficulties of inter-personal relationships and reactions to situations, social norms, and speech that are often a struggle for Jo Jones, she proves to be an exceptional force in the book and a very relatable person of interest.
THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace is out tomorrow – February 13, 2024 – so get your copy post-haste!
The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)
“THE FRAMED WOMEN OF ARDEMORE HOUSE by Brandy Schillace” Book Review Was Written By R.J. Huneke.