REVIEW: “MURDER IN G MAJOR”
BY ALEXIA GORDON
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I’ll try not to be too spoilery. Overall, I loved Murder in G Major. I loved the main character Dr. Gethsemane Brown and the setting in Ireland. I don’t know anything about music so that was a new exploration for me. I do have one critical issue so I’ll hide that under the spoiler.
Pretty sure I only know how to pronounce one of the Irish names. That slows down my reading a bit which is already pretty slow to begin with. I had similar reading problems when I read No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and didn’t understand African names. We see this all the time in how American news reporters (or people at award ceremonies) struggle. The thing is, I love names. I love finding out what they mean and where they originate. It’s a fun exercise for me that probably comes from why I love character building in writing. TL;DR – it was great authenticity by Gordon.
Gethsemane is a vibrant character. She has a big personality. Her family history is speckled in throughout the story. She has so much ambition and bravery for going anywhere in the world to be a maestra and take on new challenges. Getting a job in an Irish boys’ academy, however, made her struggle with her sense of value. The boys were uncooperative (as you’d expect of young boys). The school wasn’t entirely supportive of her. The whole town knew her business as probably the only black woman in the village and an American to boot.
The friendship between Gethsemane and the ghost of Eamon McCarthy surprised me. Honestly when I bought the book, I didn’t realize there was a supernatural component to it. Gordon created her own set of magical rules: some people can only hear ghosts; some can see them; Gethsemane can hear and see this ghost. Most people write off the ghost lore as typical Irish superstitions. It reminded me of The Ghost & Mrs. Muir but Eamon has no romantic interest in Gethsemane; he longs to find his also dead wife Orla. Part of the mystery is discovering why these two spirits can’t find each other. I love where that part of the plot went.
I also loved the sixth sense that came through for Gethsemane. When she is in danger, a particular piece of music pounds through her head as a “Spidey-sense”. She can feel the tingles of Eamon passing through her. And of course her ability to see and hear him fully.
Here’s my critical point:
The use of mental illness, even when done well, can be difficult to swallow these days as a reason for a murderous rampage over a period of twenty-five years. What did work well was that Gordon created a multitude of characters, related by blood, who all presented different types of mental illness symptoms. One woman might be considered flaky and unable to care for herself; while one of the male cousins is toxic, likely to abuse, and has an evil personality. So I appreciate that there were differences showing some as unlikely to harm others; but then having it as a crutch for explaining the choices of a murderer still kind of annoys me.
Loved it! I am happy to see it nominated for a 2016 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The ending perfectly sets up the sequel which I’ll definitely check out.
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