Book Review: Fractured / The Murder Game by Catherine McKenzie

fractured-the-murder-game
Title: Fractured / The Murder Game
Author: Catherine McKenzie / Julie Apple
ISBN: 9781503937826 / 9781537316604
Pages: 362 / 340
Release Date: October 4, 2016 / November 1, 2016
Publisher: Lake Union / Self-Published
Genre: Psychological Thriller / Mystery
Source: Publisher / Author

Summary

Julie Apple Prentice and her family have decided to make a fresh start after Julie was being stalked because of her bestselling book. They’ve settled into a neighborhood that appears welcoming on the surface, but after a series of mishaps and mistakes, Julie realizes these people aren’t as friendly as they first seemed. When unexplainable things start occurring, Julie isn’t sure whether her stalker has found her again or it’s her neighbors conspiring against her.

In The Murder Game, Meredith Delay is a prosecutor and is handed a huge case that is ripped from the headlines: a man has murdered a fallen sports star, accused of sexually abusing a young boy, and claims that he did it while sleepwalking. If that wasn’t difficult enough, the man who is accused of committing the murder is one of Meredith’s friends from law school and the man defending him is her ex-boyfriend.

Review

You might be wondering why I paired these two seemingly unrelated books together to be reviewed, but they are actually connected—they’re by the same author. More than that, though, The Murder Game is the book that the main character in Fractured wrote, the one that led to her being stalked. It feels a little gimmicky (and unnecessary, as both books are strong enough to stand on their own two feet), but I actually appreciated the background The Murder Game gave me before picking up Fractured.

The Murder Game and Fractured are companion books; you don’t need to read both, or read them in any sort of order, to enjoy them. Fractured is a compelling psychological thriller, while The Murder Game is an intriguing mystery novel. I personally read The Murder Game before Fractured and was glad I did; there were elements of the former book that would have been ruined for me if I had read it after Fractured.

The two main characters in Fractured and The Murder Game, Julie and Meredith, respectively, are very similar, but they aren’t identical. Meredith is incredibly passive, allowing the world to act upon her instead of trying to take charge of her own fate. Julie is much less passive, yet her influence on the world appears to be destructive. It seems as though everything she touches falls to pieces, even when she has the best intentions. Her experience with a stalker has made her brittle, liable to break, rather than bend.

If you have an afternoon to spend reading, I highly recommend both these books. Individually, they are solidly good, but together, they create an fascinating portrait of Julie, the main character in Fractured.  I didn’t love the gimmick with the authorship, but there are a lot of great themes and layers to peel away in both of these books; if you’re looking for book club reads, put Fractured at the top of your list.

Other books by Catherine McKenzie

Hidden
Forgotten

Affiliate Links

Buy Fractured from Amazon.com
Buy The Murder Game from Amazon.com

Book Review: Hidden – Catherine McKenzie

Hidden coverTitle: Hidden
Author: Catherine McKenzie
ISBN: 9780544264977
Pages: 304
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: New Harvest
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publicist
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

When Jeff Manning is hit by a car and killed walking home from work, his wife Claire is devastated, as expected. But Tish, Jeff’s coworker, is also blindsided by Jeff’s death, unable to cope. Who was Jeff to Tish? What secrets was Jeff keeping from his wife?

Snapshot Review:

A thoughtful and emotional novel, Hidden takes a premise that seems cliche and turns it into something new. McKenzie writes sympathetic, three-dimensional characters that readers will immediately connect with.

Full Review:

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie is an examination of two womens’ grief at the loss of one man, Jeff. At the beginning, it’s not clear what the nature of Tish and Jeff’s relationship was. Were they just good friends? Were they having an affair? Or was it something in between, a nebulous and complicated relationship that didn’t really have any sort of definition? McKenzie handles this tension well, ensuring that there are no easy answers in this novel.

It’s easy to jump to conclusions about what Jeff and Tish were up to in Hidden, and I’ll admit I was a bit disappointed by the premise. After all, “widow finds husband’s secrets after his death” is a plot that’s been done quite frequently, and one thing I’ve always admired McKenzie for is that her plots are really unique. But I’m glad to say that McKenzie handled it very well. Both Claire and Tish act in unexpected ways; this novel isn’t a cliche, even if that’s what the summary might imply.

Indeed, McKenzie is excellent at writing the unexpected, which shows on every page of Hidden. It’s not just Jeff that had his secrets. Before she and Jeff met, Claire dated Jeff’s older brother, Tim. It’s always been a source of tension between Jeff and Claire; but how does Claire actually feel about Tim? It’s been easy to ignore him, given that he lives out of the country, but of course he will return for Jeff’s funeral. Claire must face her own difficult issues with Tim’s return. (And before you start worrying, no, this isn’t widow-falls-into-bed-with-ex-at-an-inappropriate-time either. McKenzie is too smart and bold for that.)

The author richly develops both Tish and Claire; readers will be able to sympathize with both women. McKenzie takes a premise that has been done before and reinvents it, making it something new and unique. If you enjoy smart women’s fiction, Catherine McKenzie’s books should absolutely be on your list; she’s such a talented author and breathes life into her stories and characters in a way that’s really difficult to do.

Other books by Catherine McKenzie:

Forgotten

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

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