Second Look: Sarah Jude’s THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS

This is one of those books I was so, so excited for.  It released a few weeks ago, so I’m glad I got to read it so soon.


Sarah Jude’s The May Queen Murders
Houghton-Mifflin, 2016

What It’s About:

Ivy lives in the small village of Rowan’s Glen.  Set in the hills of the Missouri Ozarks, this is a community that takes care of itself and doesn’t trust outsiders.  (See more below about the setting.)

When her cousin and best friend, Heather, begins to pull away, Ivy begins feeling lost.  What makes it worse is that she thinks Heather has fallen in love with her secret crush, Rook.  Ivy also begins to see bad omens and tries to warn Heather that she is in trouble, but Heather doesn’t listen.

To add to the gothic nature of this novel, there’s local lore of a madman who lives in the woods, Birch Markel.  Birch was responsible for the death of a young girl 25 years previous, but was never apprehended by the local sheriff.  When dead animals begin showing up around the Glen, Ivy worries that Birch is coming for her cousin.

And she’s not necessarily wrong.

What I Thought:

I was slightly disappointed, but that doesn’t mean that I stopped reading.  I was too intrigued to not know what happened at the end.  Plus, I’ve been reading pretty fast lately, so I figured it would be worth it to finish it in a few days, since it wouldn’t take me a week…

I’ll explain some of the disappointment as I go on with the review.

THE SETTING: I’m putting this first because it’s really important.  Jude did a really amazing job of creating the world of Rowan’s Glen.  The best way I can describe it is a more modern look of the Amish.  They don’t rely on electricity.  They make their own clothes and find things to reuse.  While they aren’t as pure, or religious, as the Amish, the way of life is very similar.

I’d have to say, my favorite part of the novel (and what drove me to continue reading) was the setting.  Jude just did an amazing job of creating this world for the reader.

THE CHARACTERS:  I didn’t really like Ivy.  She was developed in that she had backstory and she does change by the end of the novel, and become stronger.  But she’s a little whiny and there are times I was just “done” with her.  Since the novel’s told in first person, through Ivy’s perspective, the reader never separates from her.  So we hear her worry and whine about Heather pulling away.

Heather was Ivy’s polar opposite.  (At one time, Jude makes an awesome reference to why Ivy and Heather aren’t getting along, commenting on the way the plants actually survive — Heather needs like, Ivy needs shade.)

Rook, the Love Interest, is a great character.  Maybe the romantic in me just liked Rook.  But he was just swell.  And really does heroic things by the end of the novel.  (Which, almost made me angry…but I won’t spoil it.)


THE PLOT: The story was interesting.  It definitely had that gothic atmosphere.  There’s a build-up of mystery and tension.  And a lot of tension with the climax toward the end of the novel.


The plot definitely had potential.  But, I also felt there was just too much going on, which would have been fine if it stayed separate.  However, Jude tried to make everything fit together by the end of the novel, taking all aspects of the plot & subplot and making it all make sense.  Sadly, I didn’t really like the way this happened.  I actually found myself confused.  Because, this is how my brain interpreted it:

Oh.  He’s the killer.  I get it.

Wait, he’s not the killer?  But, he admitted to killing [censor].

So, that guy is actually the killer?

…I’m so confused right now.


Literally.  And I’m sure some people will understand it more clearly than I did, but it did leave my mind twirling.  (This also might be because I finished it while at work, so I was interrupted constantly.)


8/10 Stars

If you like this, try…daughtersuntodevils


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