Downside Up: A Novel of Suspense (None of the Above Book 1)
When Janna Elson’s uncle Daniel dies suddenly, she returns to London to the home of her Aunt Clair where she grew up. Clair is certain that Daniel’s death was no accident, that he was murdered. Janna, convinced to take up her childhood pursuit of climbing onto the roofs of Marleytree Terrace, searches for clues to the mystery. What Jenna discovers puts both her and Clair in danger and they must depend on the help of mysterious neighbors to solve the puzzle.
Theme of the Book
While Downside Up is a murder mystery, it is also about friendship and family and learning to connect to other people. Clair is isolated by her illnesses, Jenna by choice. They both discover that when artificial walls are broken down, friendship and family are the two things that can be depended on in times of trouble.
What I Liked About the Story
Downside Up certainly has an unusual setting. Readers are used to murders set in London, but this is the first I’ve read where the mystery is mainly set on the rooftops of a mid-London terrace. Jenna’s penchant for climbing the roofs of Marleytree Terrace provides her, and us, a unique viewpoint on life and the other residents of the terrace.
Jenna presents as an interesting and complex character. Outwardly she is strong, brave, adventurous, and independent. However, inwardly we see that she is often fearful of intimacy, insecure in herself, and dependent on her Aunt Clair for love and acceptance. Aunt Clair, on the other hand, is one of the most believable yet unlikeable characters I have ever met. The reader can understand her without liking her. Clair is demanding and selfish and, at the beginning of the story, the reader wonders if she honestly cares about Jenna or is simply manipulating her. Clair is certainly able to manipulate other characters in the book, from Jake the gardener to the doctor and the police inspector.
There is quite a collection of residents of the terrace from the painter of slasher porn to the famous actor to the lonely cat lady. All of these residents play their parts in the solution of the puzzle and are well-drawn with distinctive personalities.
The plot moves quickly and is generally credible. There is enough action and enough reflection to satisfy the general mystery reader.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
Most mysteries contain red herrings designed to confuse the reader and keep her thinking. Downside Up is no exception but the distractions provided are easy to see through. For anyone who reads a lot of mystery stories, picking out the murderer is not difficult.
Clair’s about turn at the end of the novel is not particularly believable. People don’t change who they are, especially as they get older. I will not say more as I don’t want to spoil the plot for future readers.
This is a well-imagined mystery with enough twists and turns to keep most readers happy. It is well-written with a good main character and a variety of secondary characters. The murderer’s motivation is believable if obvious. Most readers will find this a satisfying start to a new series.