My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I hadn't really been looking to add ANOTHER ARC to the review list, but when the notification popped on Edelweiss saying that I'd been granted this DRC, I just had to make an exception.
EVERYTHING about the blurb appealed to me. The stage play, the Christmas setting, the murder mystery! What's not to love? On one hand, it was a sure hit because of the themes and tropes. On the other, it could turn out to be super generically uninspired...
What makes The Christmas Appeal an unconventional read is that there is no long-form narrative at all. I've read a few short stories that incorporate forms of text messaging and emails, but not a whole novella that's written entirely in emails, WhatsApp/text messages, police transcripts and the occasional newspaper article. It does, however, take a bit of easing into because of the way it's written. (Or maybe if you're forewarned by this review, you'll be able to sink into it right away.)
The Christmas Appeal is a comedy of errors, and it's pretty hilarious. You're seeing the events as it happens through the communications between the characters. It's not quite unbuffered thoughts, but you get to know them in the ways that they express (or expose) themselves to others, unhindered by side thoughts, or narrator's thoughts, or other kinds of wordy buffer. There were many oh ho! points especially when you get to some of the more backstabby and gossipy characters, so it was pretty fun to read through some of those texts (and also get annoyed by how stupid and/or annoying some of them are lol)
At any rate, as much as I enjoyed it and sped through it, it's not quite a 5-star read for me for the following reasons:
- It's framed around a bored, retired KC sending the communications (or notes from the "case") to his ex-students, who take it upon themselves to try to solve the mystery which, I guess, is okay - however, it felt like the weakest point of the entire setup.
- The body doesn't turn up until quite late in the story so the story could have stood alone as a farce without any murder.
- At the risk of a spoiler (?), the "murder" isn't really actually connected to anything that's currently happening. So that felt a little like a let down.
There were some allusions to the previous case (The Appeal) that I haven't read. I think that might have given more background to some of the characters but I could follow it easily enough without knowing what happened in the earlier book.
As a last note, I'm usually one for e-books nowadays, but this novella is probably best read/navigated in printed form. Despite the fact that it was written in mostly digital comms formats.
Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Simon & Schuster via Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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The Christmas Appeal releases on Oct 24! Affiliate link below: