The Halingsford Murders by Lili Evans

By Ekta R. Garg

February 13, 2013

Rated: Borrow it

When the estranged adult children of a high society family come home after the murders of their parents, the children must once again face all the issues they faced growing up.  While none of them has any reason to miss their parents, the unexpected death of the youngest sibling causes them to realize their parents’ murders may not have occurred as isolated incidents.  Suddenly family drama becomes less important as the remaining siblings begin an uneasy alliance to figure out just why everyone died—before one of them becomes next.  New author Lili Evans offers readers a traditional murder mystery with a refreshing sense of the genre and a twist that engages and entertains in The Halingsford Murders.

The Halingsford children want nothing to do with their parents, a lawyer father absorbed by his career and a society wife mother who concentrates more on appearances than the heart of matters.  After the unsolved murder of one sister, the others decide life at home has become unbearable and one by one leave.  Youngest daughter, Nadia, proves herself the exception to her older siblings and still lives at home.  At the beginning of the book Nadia helps her mother, Vivien, put the finishing touches on a grand party for William, the Halingsford patriarch and the source for most of the family’s tension.

While the party turns into a smashing success, the entire mood changes abruptly as Vivien and William both die—Vivien from gunshots and William from a weak heart.  Suddenly Nadia finds herself with the burden of informing her brothers and sisters of William and Vivien’s deaths.  Nadia’s siblings all feel varying degrees of hatred for their parents, but all of them agree to come home for the funeral for the sake of moral decency.

Old rivalries resume the minute all of the Halingsford children come together; William often pitted one against the other, and time and distance haven’t lessened the severity of their intense dislike for one another.  But when Rachael, the oldest, discovers Nadia in the family pool dead from a stab wound, the siblings start to see connections between Nadia’s death, William and Vivien’s deaths, and the death of their sister, Dani, five years earlier.  Dani, too, had died from a stab wound, and her death provided the siblings the catalyst for leaving home.  When their baby sister, Nadia, dies seemingly within reach, the remaining siblings realize they’ll have to share something like family bonds once again if they want to make sense of it all.

Author Evans uses active verbs in her writing, giving the story the right amount of force where it needs it.  She doesn’t shy away from those difficult conversations between characters—the Halingsford children don’t like one another or their parents, and they don’t hesitate to have it out many times, despite the frightening circumstances surrounding them.  Evans lets her characters form an uneasy coalition—not even family deaths can dig out the deep-rooted animosity they’ve felt toward one another and their family in general for so many years—but she doesn’t sugarcoat anything or allow fairy dust to make everything better all of a sudden.

A few minor issues may snag readers’ attention for a few minutes.  Secondary characters receive minimal attention, and once they no longer actively interact with the main characters the secondary characters almost completely disappear with no explanation whatsoever.  Also, a series of letters written by the killer appears, but a significant section of the letters doesn’t match a basic element of the killer’s profile.

But Evans’ writing engages readers enough that they won’t have any problem glossing over these small hitches.  A Toronto resident herself, Evans sets the entire story in her native Canada, offering readers a refreshing change from typical U.S. locations.  Most notably comes the twist at the end, and readers shouldn’t try to out-guess Evans.  This talented writer has done her homework on how to keep the story moving past its expected conclusion.

I highly recommend The Halingsford Murders for anyone wanting a good old-fashioned murder mystery with twenty-first century verve.

***

What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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