Murder Feels Awful by Bill Alive is Book One of a series called An Empath Detective Mystery. This first novel has three distinct approaches to a story which make it different from a run of the mill mystery novel that the cover suggests. Yes, there is murder, the story starts with one murder followed by characters who start dropping like flies, literally, as in out of the sky. The second approach is the story of an empath, someone who can feel the experiences, both painful and pleasant of those around him. The third approach is a type of quirky humor demonstrated in the dialogue between two almost-detectives. The combination makes for a surprisingly good entertaining read. Why surprisingly? The cover suggests something different. It looks like a very conservative, dry mystery set in wartime England. This novel remained on my TBR shelf longer than necessary in favor of more interesting looking stuff to read. So I do judge a book by its cover. I recommend the author repackage the novel to make a more engaging presentation.
The mystery part of the novel follows a tried and true formula. Lindsay Mackenzie died a somewhat unusual death by falling from the sky in a glider. Did she commit suicide, was it an unfortunate accident, or was she murdered? Given that it was a one-person glider, if she was murdered how was it done and who did it? Police believed it an accident and were ready to close the case. Lindsay was either rich or about to be rich due to the death of an unbelievably wealthy mother. But Mom didn’t really like Lindsay and there was another daughter, Sylvie, to whom Mom could leave her money. However, Mom didn’t trust Sylvie who spent most of her time and money on drugs. If the two sisters managed to die before inheriting Mom’s money, the loot went to the girls’ father, another person Mom didn’t trust because he tended to throw money at get-rich-quick schemes. Then there was Sylvie’s husband, an out and out gold digger who might inherit money if enough other people died. This mystery will keep the reader guessing with plenty of motive attached to plenty of characters
Two main characters carry the story, Pete Villette and Mark Falcon. Mark, the empath, is almost a recluse. He works from home designing websites and loves the fact that he doesn’t have to interact with anyone. Everything is done through the internet, including his billing, so Mark never has to see clients. This allows him the luxury of living like a complete and dedicated slob. His home is a total mess and looks like one from a popular TV series in which outside consultants are brought in to clean the place with a style that looks like an intervention for addicts. Mark’s independent style extends to his ancient, beat-up car which resembles a moving garbage collection vehicle in which the driver collects, but never empties, the trash. Mark does not live this lifestyle by choice. As an empath, Mark feels the emotions and “sees” the experiences of those around him. If they are in physical pain, so is Mark. If they are depressed, so is Mark. In an attempt to avoid these feelings, Mark avoids people, crowds, cities, and malls. Mark was content with his lifestyle choices until he met Pete.
Pete is the ultimate go-with-the-flow guy. He lived with his parents until they kicked him out and demanded he take responsibility for his life. His mom rented an apartment for him but after one year the parents decided to stop paying rent. Pete would have to find a job. His father wanted to give him a car but demanded Pete pay for the insurance. Pete declined because insurance was expensive, he didn’t have a job, and he had no intention of being tied down by a job. Pete experimented with Yoga, crystals, mind reading, and the possible complete control the mind can have over the body. He became disaffected over time when he failed to meet anyone who could actually levitate but was still fascinated with the potential of mind over matter. This led Pete to get a job at Valley Visions New Age Store, a place where he worked as little as possible. After meeting Mark, the two devoted most of their time to solving the mystery of Lindsay’s death. Mark used his empath skills to probe the minds of suspects. Pete tagged along to “protect” Mark, provide lively banter, and because Pete had convinced Mark they should live together in Mark’s hovel to save money that Pete didn’t have.
The third story approach is the use of humor and this novel has lots of that. Most appear in the dialogue between Mark and Pete. More humor appears as subordinate characters react, many times with incredulity, to the empath derived knowledge from Mark and the clueless behavior of Pete. Here are two examples relating to the man cave that was Mark’s house:
Pete had cleverly tricked Mark into letting him move into Mark’s house but Pete had never seen the house. His first observation of the house was “it turned out to be literally a hunting cabin that had been semi-retrofitted for semi-year-round semi-habitation. Dull red-painted concrete block walls glowered behind overgrown bushes that wished they had thorns. It was the kind of “house” that a lifelong Wal-Mart greeter entering retirement might purchase for his dying aunt, if he hated her guts.” (Kindle locations 391-393).
Again, but now describing the inside of the house “Okay, it wasn’t like Hoarders level — the stuff wasn’t trash. Everything laying around looked potentially useful and interesting. It’s just that if you tried to extract it from its pile and anything went wrong, you could trigger a domino effect that might create the next black hole.” (Kindle locations 408-410).
This was a fun, four Amazon star read. I was particularly attracted by the humor. I am sure I will read further novels by this author. The humor can sometimes be difficult to understand and there are lots of cultural references so this novel may not be for everyone. But if you like quirky and creative humor, this is very good. Also note that the story in this novel has four parts, cleverly labeled Parts I, II, III, and IV. These are followed by parts not labeled as parts but identified by numbers 6, 7, 8, and 9. Don’t ignore those last parts, your reward will be a free novella, Origin Story.