Title: Pretty Dead Queens
Author: Alexa Donne
Genre: YA, Mystery
Published: October 4th, 2022 (Crown BYR)
Synopsis: After the death of her mom (screw cancer), seventeen-year-old Cecelia Ellis goes to live with her estranged grandmother, a celebrated author whose Victorian mansion is as creepy as the murder mysteries she writes. On the surface, life is utterly ordinary in the California coastal town…until the homecoming queen is murdered. And she’s not Seaview’s first pretty dead queen.
With a copycat killer on the loose, Cecelia throws herself into the investigation, determined to crack the case like the heroines in her grandmother’s books. But the more Cecelia digs into the town’s secrets, the more she worries that her own mystery might not have a storybook ending.
Thank you to the publisher, Penguin Teen, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Cecelia Ellis arrives in Seaview, a small coastal California town, to live with her estranged grandmother after her mother’s death. Her grandmother is a famous author who initially rose to fame when she wrote a murder mystery novel based on the real life events that took place in the town surrounding the death of a homecoming queen. Seaview seems rather ordinary these days though, until history repeats itself with another homecoming queen murdered. Certain that there is a copycat killer around, Cecelia starts investigating, but the further she digs, the more questions come up and it’s starting to look more and more like this case might be related to the first murder in more ways than one.
This review is so long overdue, especially as I had an ARC of this, but with the terrible couple of reading months I’ve been having, I only managed to sit down with this book two weeks ago. Having read The Ivies last year, I was excited to pick up another mystery by this author. This was a compact read and didn’t waste time going off track, which I really appreciated since I wasn’t at all in the mood for something that required too much analysis. The pacing was good and the investigation was interesting, with the events leading up to it starting off relatively quickly. The setting of a small town with so many generations of secrets provided a great backdrop to this story and it set the scene and mood quite well.
On the downside, just like with The Ivies, I felt there was a disconnect with the main character Cecelia and couldn’t really bring myself to care about her, or indeed any of the characters. They didn’t feel very well defined, and to be honest, there were far too many of them for my taste (especially given that this a single POV story), and I kept having to go back and remind myself who was who. Then there’s the fact that Celia has next to no reason to be investigating at all, apart from the fact that she was the one who stumbled onto the body. This resulted in a lack of any emotional connection to the story for me, despite the mystery itself being interesting. The romance arc was extremely insta-lovey and it also had such a typical love triangle trope that automatically had me marking it down half a star.
The big reveal was very well orchestrated, and I didn’t really suspect anything until well past the 75% mark – and even after that, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the last minute twist at the end of it all. In hindsight, it doesn’t really make sense from a logical angle that the killer would have gotten away with it for so long, but I think this is the type of book you just enjoy and don’t read too much into. Even though Halloween has long passed, this book is definitely a read that suits the spooky season and fans of mysteries and thrillers are sure to enjoy this intriguing whodunnit!
Pretty Dead Queens released on October 4th, 2022.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
All quotes in this review were taken from an advance reader’s edition and may differ from the final version of the book.
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