A remote hotel. A murder mystery. A missing woman. Everyone has a role to play, but what’s real and what’s part of the game?
“Jilly Gagnon’s well-crafted maze of clues and shifting realities is the perfect read for fans of Lucy Foley.”—Wendy Walker, bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten
The weekend getaway at a gorgeous hotel should have been perfect. But Becca is smarting from her husband Blake’s betrayal and knows that the trip is just an expensive apology attempt. Still, the drinks are strong, and the weekend has an elaborate 1920s murder mystery theme. She decides to get into the spirit and enjoy their stay.
Before long, the game is afoot: Famed speakeasy songstress Ida Crooner is found “murdered,” and it’s up to the guests to sniff out the culprit. Playing the role of Miss Debbie Taunte, an ingenue with a dark past, Becca dives into the world of pun-heavy clues, hammy acting, and secret passages, hoping to take her mind off her marital troubles.
Then, the morning after they arrive, the actress playing Ida’s maid fails to reappear for her role. Everyone assumes she flaked out on the job, but when snooping for clues as “Debbie,” Becca finds evidence that the young woman may not have left of her own free will.
Told over a nail-biting forty-eight hours and interspersed with in-game clues, set pieces, and character histories from the flapper-filled mystery nested inside a modern one, All Dressed Up is a loving tribute to classic whodunits and a riveting exploration of the secrets we keep.
What’s it about (in a nutshell):
All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon is a story about a murder mystery weekend that took a deadly turn.
Initial Expectations (before beginning the book):
This story sounds like a lot of fun to me. I love the murder mystery weekend setting and plot. Even though I’ve read stories like this before – I still enjoy these murder mystery games that always end in real murders. The cover is a fun representation of a murder mystery weekend in a manor.
Actual Reading Experience:
As expected, I loved the murder mystery weekend angle. They seem like a lot of fun to do, and I know they are a fun plot to work from. It feels like a game of Clue that’s been given a story, and I enjoy that immensely.
The setup is entertaining. Four couples received invitations to a manor for the weekend. When they arrive, they receive character names. Once everyone checks in, they hear a scream and file into a room where they discover a dead body. From there, they acquire a manual detailing their character, the events of the weekend, and the steps they need to complete to solve the mystery.
I also liked the addition of a missing staff member. Though it’s very predictable, it’s still added fun and gives the main character more to investigate. I love all the clues and red herrings and found trying to keep everything straight made it impossible to do anything except go along for the ride. I guess I needed my own manual.
Where I had problems with the story, though, rested in the narration, and I’ll talk more about that in the section on narration.
The characters are generic and lack all but the most basic level of development. Of course, they are also in character for the weekend, making developing them even more challenging. For the most part, I always love good character development, but since this is a plot-driven story, it wasn’t essential to have well-developed characters for my reading enjoyment.
Becca is the main character who tells the story from her perspective. She is still reeling from her husband’s infidelity but is committed to working things out. She loves murder mysteries and is eager for this getaway with her husband, Blake.
Narration & Pacing:
The pacing was good throughout. It slowed up from time to time, but that had much to do with the narration. The story is told in first-person narration through Becca’s eyes. Unfortunately, Becca tends to obsess – first on her husband’s infidelity and then on the missing staff member. That obsession gets very hard to sit in as the reader. It overwhelmed my ability to immerse myself in the story entirely, and I wanted to immerse myself so that I could enjoy the weekend vicariously. I found myself losing interest because I was hearing more about Becca’s fears concerning her husband than I was about the mystery.
The setting of the manor is perfect, and the story utilizes it entirely as the murder mystery weekend dictated. I also loved the added element of being put in another period – the 1920s. These details gave the story a bit of flair and added to the entertainment.
What It Reminds Me Of:
The story reminded me of a game of Clue with more background information.
To Read or Not to Read:
All Dressed Up will provide an entertaining escape if you enjoy a Clue-like murder mystery and don’t mind sitting in an obsessive mind.
Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Originality: ⭐️⭐️
- Writing Quality: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- Pace: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
- Character Development: ⭐️
- ‘Couldn’t Put It Down’-ness: ⭐️⭐️💫
- Use of Setting: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️