Publication Date: September 21, 2023
Lily Jones is an English ex-pat in Hollywood looking for her big break. She’s working as a chambermaid at the Beverly Hills Hotel and cleaning the suite where an actress was killed in 1949 when she’s transported back in time to two weeks before the murder. Can Lily save Honey Black?
I as given this book by the Book Reviewer Book Club on Facebook in exchange for my review.
I love a good time travel read and you can win me over with Old Hollywood anytime. I went into The Mysterious Double Death of Honey Black ready to be entertained and sure that I would like the novel. The prologue was great. We see the murder of Honey Black. Suspense is built. The promise of what is to come is undeniably sweet but the author does not carry through on that promise. What this reader was left with at the end was confusion. The ending felt abrupt as though the author had simply had enough of the writing process or the characters and was ready for it to be done.
Lily Jones is an English transplant in Hollywood in 2019 hoping for her big break. She’s working as a chambermaid at an iconic hotel where an actress was murdered in 1949 just as her career was set to take off and on the cusp of her 21st birthday. Lily is cleaning the suite where the murder took place when she’s transported to just 2 weeks before the murder. She hides in the bathroom as two women argue. The first what the heck moment for this reader is that Lily is, from the start, not a woman to pick up on context clues. She doesn’t recognize the actress, iconic in death (and also about whom she later claims to know everything available on the Wikipedia page), when she’s hiding behind the bathroom door watching her argue with her PA. This is the first of many times that Lily is simply quite slow to get what’s going on in the story. That’s great for the reader if those points are not obvious to them and we’re working through with the character but that’s just not the case in this novel
The Mysterious Double Death of Honey Black does demonstrate a real sense of place in time. Lily notes the difference in her landscape and the difference in the appearance and demeanor of those around her. Lily has chance encounters with Golden Age Celebrities as she plods through the course of the narrative that seem natural. While there are some general history missteps, they are only off by a few years and not something the average reader will pick up on.
Many authors would take the opportunity of this kind of narrative to appropriate a real life celebrity for one of their main characters and I appreciate that this author did not do that. Unless you use the character in a way that shows deep dive their history (i.e. Louise Brooks in “The Chaperone.”), it tends to come off as a little slanderous employing rumors that persisted either in their life or after their death. Hall avoids this completely by forming new characters based on archetypes that are, generally, pretty well fleshed out. The stereotypes in The Mysterious Double Death of Honey Black read more as the reason that we have these stereotypes than unrealistically lazy novel “casting.” Because of how well fleshed out the characters are, some readers may find Lily pretty unlikable. As mentioned, she’s pretty slow on the uptake and is mostly occupied with making hay while the sun shines (to use an expression of the day). Lily, for a lot of the narrative, seems to be unintentionally driving the plot.
As a cozy mystery, The Mysterious Double Death of Honey Black, is standard. There is a mystery that, if you’re nota regular reader of mystery, you maybe won’t figure out too early. If you are someone that likes classic star call backs like a hometown crowd loves a singer shouting their name, this is the book for you. They are, for the most part, brushes with fame. This is a cozy mystery and technically time travel but not in a sense in which there’s an struggle really to adjust so we miss the sweet sense of danger to the main character. As Historical Fiction, it’s simply not applicable to that category and you will be disappointed.
Read an excerpt and buy The Mysterious Double Death of Honey Black by Lisa Hall on