First Line: My father was bipolar, what they used to call manic-depressive-- a better term, more descriptive of his self-destructive highs and lows.
After the death of her philandering husband in a car accident, crime novelist Augusta Hawke has-- for all intents and purposes-- shut herself away, choosing to live vicariously through the characters in her long-running mystery series... and through noticing things about her neighbors while looking out her window for inspiration while she writes.
When a detective comes to the door to ask questions, she already knows that the Normans have been missing for a week and that they quarreled before they disappeared.
Then the Normans' car is found abandoned. Augusta senses she could have the beginnings of a bestseller on her hands, so she decides to put all she's learned in doing research for her books to conduct her own investigation. What she really didn't think about is what would happen when she starts digging up long-buried secrets-- secrets someone is willing to kill to protect.
Augusta Hawke is the introduction to a new series that left me wanting more. With its theme of someone sitting at a window watching the comings and goings of the neighbors, some readers may think of A.J. Finn's The Woman at the Window. If you're vintage like me, you might think of Alfred Hitchcock's classic Rear Window. At least Augusta is looking out the window while she's writing one of her books, and not being an idle curtain-twitching busybody.
Since the death of her husband, Augusta has, for the most part, shut herself away in her suburban Washington, DC townhouse. Her life revolves around writing her long-running police procedural set in the south of France and those vignettes she sees of her neighbors' lives. Once the police start investigating the disappearance of Mr. and Mrs. Norman, Augusta's writing radar begins to ping. There could be a bestseller in this! What's fun is watching how her investigation begins to pull her back into the real world with face-to-face interactions with real people.
Although I did deduce what was going on, it didn't bother me a bit because Augusta had a stranglehold on me. Malliet really made me like the woman. I was sad that she'd shut herself away and then happy when she began getting out and investigating. In no time at all, I found myself caring about what happened to her.
The story, the main character, and the wit are first-rate, and another facet of the book that I loved was the inclusion of all the insider information on the publishing world and the Washington, DC area. One of Augusta's comments that mentioned James Patterson had me crowing with laughter, so not only does she make me care about her, but she also makes me laugh. You can't beat a combination like that.
Now that I've met Augusta Hawke and want to invite her over for coffee, there's only one thing left to do: wait months for her next adventure. It will be worth the wait, I'm sure.
Augusta Hawke by G.M. Malliet
Severn House © 2022
eBook, 240 pages
Amateur Sleuth, #1 Augusta Hawke mystery
Source: Net Galley