By: Sophia Lo, Teen Volunteer
Julie McElwain’s novel, A Murder in Time, introduces protagonist Kendra Donovan in the first of her Kendra Donovan Mysteries. Despite her talent and intelligence, Kendra Donovan isn’t given the same respect as her colleagues since she is a young woman. Regardless, Kendra remains focused on her job and earns a place on a team to complete a difficult mission. The mission, however, does not go as expected.
Soon, Kendra goes rogue to seek revenge. Kendra travels to England and ends up in Aldrich Castle, and while in the halls, she discovers she is no longer in modern day America, but in 1815 England. As if traveling in time weren’t enough of a surprise, the body of a young girl washes up on a lake, covered in bruises and scars. Immediately, Kendra knows a serial killer is prowling the castle and surrounding area. Now, she must find the serial killer not only while posing as a lady’s maid but also without the crime-solving tools of the modern time.
As a fan of Agatha Christie and fantasy/sci-fi, I was excited to start reading a murder mystery that also had elements of a fantasy or science fiction novel. But as I progressed through the book, I found myself wishing McElwain hadn’t thrown Kendra back in time. I definitely did enjoy the murder mystery aspect of the book- the interrogations, the suspects, the shocking and horrifying deaths that sent shivers down my spine. There was enough suspense, and the murderer wasn’t necessarily the obvious suspect. I wanted to find out who was committing these gruesome murders and why, but I didn’t want it to be 1815.
Too much of the novel revolved around Kendra’s ability to blend in with the time period. The other characters, particularly the male ones, were shocked and disliked the way she acted. Of course, 200 years ago, gender roles were quite different, but Kendra made little effort to conform to society thus raising many questions and suspicions about her origins. The other characters’ disapproval of Kendra and their lack of trust took away from the more important aspect of the novel: discovering the identity of the serial killer.
That being said, I did like Kendra as a character. Her perseverance and determination allowed her to use her knowledge to solve the mystery as she battled the challenges she faced as a woman in 1815. Her ability to stand up for herself is definitely an admirable trait; it’s wonderful to see an accomplished female protagonist. Along with Lady Rebecca and the Duke, progressive members of the upper class, Kendra is able to shift the other characters’ mindsets and show what women are truly capable of. While this is definitely an important theme in the novel, I felt this would also be just as effective in modern day while Kendra solved crimes with her team at the FBI. Exploring the perception of women in the progressing, modern era would also raise interesting discussions.
Overall, I did enjoy the novel’s mystery plot, and since this is McElwain’s first novel, I would say she did an excellent job leaving the ending open for more to be discovered as the series progresses. Although the time travel does happen without explanation, it does bring a more imaginative aspect to the story. For those who enjoy a good murder mystery, I would recommend the novel. Because some scenes are more gruesome, I would recommend this novel to mature high school students and adults. Personally, I think this novel is more of a beach read, but nonetheless, I will be reading McElwain’s second novel in the series, A Twist in Time, coming out in 2017.
Sophia Lo is a junior at Hopewell Valley Central High School and a teen PR volunteer at the Pennington Public Library. She is also an editor of her school newspaper, treasurer for her FBLA chapter, and co-president of the Mock Trial Club. Sophia is a lover of all things fantasy and is slightly obsessed with George R.R. Martin’s series, A Game of Thrones.