Book Review: A Beginner’s Guide to Murder by Rosalind Stopps

Grace, Meg and Daphne, all in their seventies, are minding their own business while enjoying a cup of tea in a café, when seventeen-year-old Nina stumbles in. She’s clearly distraught and running from someone, so the three women think nothing of hiding her when a suspicious-looking man starts asking if they’ve seen her.
Once alone, Nina tells the women a little of what she’s running from. The need to protect her is immediate, and Grace, Meg and Daphne vow to do just this. But how? They soon realise there really is only one answer: murder.
And so begins the tale of the three most unlikely murderers-in-the-making, and may hell protect anyone who underestimates them.

I’ll start by saying that I did enjoy this book but it was not what I was expecting so it took me a little while to change my expectations and fully get into the story.

I was expecting a fairly light crime story (obviously a murder but not too dark around that) sort of in the way that The Thursday Murder Club or Dial A for Aunties dealt with it. Crime but with some humour and fun while still dealing with some dark subjects. A Beginners Guide to Murder was nothing like that – it was in fact fairly relentlessly heavy and that made it harder going at times.

That’s not to say that I didn’t like Grace, Meg and Daphne, I did. However every one of them had a sad and tragic backstory that they frequently called back to in their perspective chapters and that alongside Nina’s story just changed the whole tone of the story.

I really felt for them all – especially Meg who had lived most of her life with an emotionally abusive husband and was still put down by thoughts of what he would say to her even though he was dead. The friendship the three women formed while helping Nina was lovely and I wanted them to grab hold of each other and not let go.

Nina herself was so strong and you desperately wanted her to be ok, to get her life back, get the help she needed and go from there. Her flashback chapters where you could see her being drawn in by her abuser were hard to read.

Fairly or not it felt to me a little like the author had tried to recreate the success of The Thursday Murder Club (this book even had the friendly, helpful criminal to aid the ladies as Bogdan does for the Club) and just somehow missed the mark a bit.

I don’t always include trigger warnings in my reviews but I feel there are so many potential triggers in this book that it’s prudent to mention them, not an extensive list but the most talked about – trigger warnings for rape, kidnap, emotional abuse, physical abuse.

With thanks to HQ and Netgalley for a copy in exchange for honest review.

A Beginners Guide to Murder is published 22 July 2021