Thursday, March 12, 2015

Asylum ~ Jeannette de Beauvoir (earc) review [@MinotaurBooks @JeannetteDeB]

Asylum: A Mystery
Minotaur Books
March 10, 2015
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from TBD/or Amazon

Martine LeDuc is the director of PR for the mayor's office in Montreal. When four women are found brutally murdered and shockingly posed on park benches throughout the city over several months, Martine's boss fears a PR disaster for the still busy tourist season, and Martine is now also tasked with acting as liaison between the mayor and the police department. The women were of varying ages, backgrounds and bodytypes and seemed to have nothing in common. Yet the macabre presentation of their bodies hints at a connection. Martine is paired with a young detective, Julian Fletcher, and together they dig deep into the city's and the country's past, only to uncover a dark secret dating back to the 1950s, when orphanages in Montreal and elsewhere were converted to asylums in order to gain more funding. The children were subjected to horrific experiments such as lobotomies, electroshock therapy, and psychotropic medication, and many of them died in the process. The survivors were supposedly compensated for their trauma by the government and the cases seem to have been settled. So who is bearing a grudge now, and why did these four women have to die?

Not until Martine finds herself imprisoned in the terrifying steam tunnels underneath the old asylum does she put the pieces together. And it is almost too late for Jeannette de Beauvoir's Asylum.
I was first* drawn to Asylum because of the fact that what happened in Montreal orphanages in the 1950s. I first learned and read about some of what had happened in this book (only linking to the book, not providing the title here for spoiler [of linked book' reasons).

It was something I did not want to at first, believe could be anything other than fiction. Yet, that orphanages in Montreal were converted to asylums for more funding is very much fact. As are the horrors children then endured.

While Asylum is a work of fiction and the mystery of the murders of four women takes place in present day Montreal, the reality of what occurred in the orphanages is very well integrated. This bit of truth, of Montreal's dark past, really allows Asylum to stand out from other murder mysteries.

Martine is an excellent lead character. As the director of PR for the mayor's office, she has spent her time making Motreal appealing to tourists and not solving murders. Yet, when she gets puled into this case, the murders of four seemingly unconnected women, left on park benches around Montreal, she becomes more invested in it than she expects.

I like having the 'outsider' character involved in the crime solving, in the mystery solving. It both prevents the characters - and plot - from following a predictable, routine path and they're usually easier characters to relate to.

While I could relate to Martine, I had a harder time connecting with her. The author does a nice job including her home life - including her struggles with being a stepmother - but I felt as if we knew most of the other characters better. Martine's character remained a bit more removed than I would have liked.

The juxtaposition of Martine's job in PR for the mayor's office, of making Montreal look good and appealing and safe, with what happened in the orphanages, to the children is fantastic. It provides a nice picture of Montral and all that it offers today, while showing that the city has its secrets.

The mystery of Asylum is nicely done. With small sections at the end of most chapters from a girl living in one of the orphanages, we get a honesty, often painful look into what life was like for some of the children in those orphanages turned asylums. With this inclusion,we know that life then will somehow be connected to the crimes now.

It's how the story from then progresses forward while the story from now works to uncover more and more of the past, until they meet, that is so compelling. Readers are left to question characters motives, to reexamine plot points and wonder how it will all come together.

Asylum is a well done murder mystery, but is really one not to miss for the details surrounding what happened to the orphans and the intricate, well pieced together puzzle that involves numerous characters, locations, organizations and comes together over years.

I'm glad I was drawn to this one, it's a very enjoyable read about an interesting, mostly unknown topic - and a very good mystery, too.

*okay first first was the cover, after that it was the aforementioned aspect of the summary

digital copy received for review thanks to publisher, via NetGalley

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