The Busy Body - Kemper Donovan - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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I can think of no one better to write a modern Agatha Christie-style mystery than the host of an Agatha Christie podcast. Kemper Donovan is that author/podcast host, and The Busy Body is the first book in his new mystery series. The wonderful team at Hachette Australia were kind enough to send me a copy for review.

Set in Maine, The Busy Body sees our narrator take a job ghostwriting the memoir of a failed presidential candidate. Dorothy Gibson is a centrist independent who recently suffered a shocking loss to a buffoon in an electoral upset. Yes, it’s all very Clinton-Trump coded, right down to allusions to “lock her up” chants. Dorothy is ready to share her story, though, and move on to the next stage of her career, thus her call for the ghostwriter’s services.

That would all be fine, except for the apparent-suicide (actual murder) of her next door neighbour. It just so happens that Dorothy was one of the last people to see her alive, and her name is inevitably dragged into the headlines. Dorothy and the ghostwriter find themselves flung head-first into a real-life murder mystery.

Donovan seemed to struggle with nailing the narrator’s voice at first (I couldn’t figure out how old the ghostwriter was supposed to be, her slang was all over the place), but he pulled it together in the second half. I liked the conceit of bringing a ghostwriter into the story, and using it to fuel a story of her own.

The Busy Body is a solid locked-room mystery with plenty of suspects, a couple of good twists, and very evocative prose. Donovan even leaves a nice little thread dangling for the next book in the series without leaving this one feeling unfinished, a very tricky balance to achieve.

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