Book Review: Twisted at the Root

Ellen Hart

Rating: 2 out of 5.

published: 13th August 2019
spoilers? no


Everyone thought Rashad May and Gideon Wise were happily married. That is, until Rashad was convicted of his husband’s murder.

Four years later, Rashad’s brother contacts Ray Lawless – Minnesota private investigator Jane Lawless’s father and the original defense attorney on the case – with potential evidence of a wrongful conviction. When the case is reopened, Jane and her father must work together to attain justice for a grieving widower.

Who actually killed Gideon and why? There are suspects and motives galore, and Jane must discover the truth. She must also track down her missing brother, Peter, who was involved in the original trial, and who might be hiding secrets of his own.

Galley provided by publisher

If there is one thing I dislike a lot in mystery novels, it’s getting a POV other than the detective’s, namely one that is either the bad guy’s or another suspect’s. Unfortunately, that’s just what this book did.

Twisted at the Root is like a cold-case murder mystery, but where the original murder was “solved” and is now being reopened for new evidence. In this case, a lawyer was murdered and his husband was put away for it after a combination of shoddy police work, leaning on a few witnesses, and good old-fashioned racism and homophobia. So, enter Jane Lawless, a private investigator, who agrees to take on the case for her father, who is representing the defendant.

First things first: I mentioned I don’t like getting bad guy/suspects’ POVs in murder mysteries and that’s because it gives me information that the detective doesn’t know. So I’m sat there thinking, this guy’s the dodgy one go question him, or this is what he’s not telling you, and it bores me, honestly. And then it makes the actual perpetrator not at all surprising (not that you want them to be a complete surprise either because then you haven’t threaded in enough clues). In this book, with a combination of the suspects’ POVs, and the fact that this character was really fricking dodgy, you could tell who it was about two thirds through. So, still a good way off from when Jane herself figured it out.

Another thing I wasn’t keen on was the writing style. This is another “it’s just me” one, to be honest, but it felt not that easy to read, really. I was skimming some parts of it fairly early on (particularly the suspects’ chapters), because reading it fully kind of bored me. But, each to their own with that.

I did, however, mostly like the characters. Jane was great, and her and Cordelia had a great partnership. Peter annoyed me (mostly because, as with most cishet men, he seemed to think only with his dick), but I did feel a little sorry for him. I’m not sure I saw enough of any of the other characters to fully form opinions of them, but it was a good enough cast. Even if I hated Julia (listen, when you have a character say hey your girlfriend is horrible and manipulative first up, I’m never going to like her) and even if, in the end, the bad guy seemed a little… two-dimensional.

But, ultimately, what I have to conclude is that this book wasn’t for me. It’s the first in this series that I’ve tried, and I feel like it would have sat a lot better with someone who had been reading the series from the start, and who had that history with the characters (not that you can’t read it as a standalone, but it is the 26th Jane Lawless book). For the right person, a good book. I’m not the right person.

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