Monday, September 12, 2016

MURDER AT THE HOUSE OF ROOSTER HAPPINESS BY DAVID CASARETT - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am here with another book review, today it is on Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness by David Casarett. Thanks so much to Hachette Books Canada for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


This book was very different from any other book that I have read, well, ever.

It follows Ladarat, a nurse and ethicist in Thailand who, at the request of a family friend, who happens to be a police officer, does some investigating. It seems that a colleague at another hospital in Thailand was on duty when a woman brought her husband into the ER, only to have him be found dead upon arrival. Seems typical enough, until you factor in that the nurse on duty also saw this same woman, with a different husband come in a few months ago, with the same circumstances.

This book had a lot of different elements in it that I am not particularly familiar with. The main one was the Thai culture. There are references to sayings, greetings, even things as mundane as food, all different in this culture. I did enjoy it, however. Everything was always explained clearly, whether it was the dish Ladarat was making for dinner, or the specific way one smiled, and the meaning behind it. I never felt like it was over my head, and I never found it too heavy on references. There was just enough to show that the author had done his research, without losing the reader.

Now, while the main draw to the story is the possible murderer on the loose, the story also focuses on the goings on in the hospital where Ladarat works. The Royal Inspectors are coming in a weeks time, and she has to help get things organized. Not to mention there is an American couple who were injured on an elephant ride on their honeymoon, and the husband's parents, especially the father, are adamant that they get the best care possible. There's also the matter of the barefooted farmer who seems to be sleeping in the stairwell for no apparent reason.

This book was truly fascinating. It looked at both Thai and American culture, having the insight Ladarat gave in her third person limited narration of both cultures. After spending a year studying in Chicago, she is kind of the hospital's resident American. Through her work as an ethicist, she helps people at the hospital work with the Americans and better understand their culture. While this was a learning experience for the reader on the culture of Thailand, Ladarat's perspective also gave an eye-opening look at American, or really the Wester world's views. She seemed to have the uncanny ability to predict the outcome of the conversations they had with the Americans, a trait which also helped with her detective work. She put herself in the shoes of the murderer, understanding why she did what she did.

On another note, I will say this book isn't really the thriller I was expecting. Not necessarily in a bad way, but just not what I was expecting. I get that the hospital and her work were a major part of her life, but I think I was just expecting more emphasis on the murders. I felt like the story had two different plot lines and they didn't really go together. She is trying to solve the murders, but at the same time, she is translating charts for the Americans, and giving medical counsel. I just felt like, sometimes, you only needed one of the storylines. They were each interesting enough to carry themselves, but I don't know if they really went together.

Another reason why I didn't love this book was there wasn't really any sense of suspense. It was pretty much another week for Ladarat, with an investigation thrown in there. There was no climax, no exciting, heart-racing moments. And I found that while the one storyline is tied up, the other is just left. I don't know if things will come back to it in the next book, but I just felt like there was more finality in one plot than the other. Part of the problem with this lack of suspense may be because there are literally no suspects. At least none that the reader knows of. In most thrillers, there are other characters who you go back and forth with, trying to decide who the murderer is. In this book, there are no suspects, we know no one who it could be. And I think that was part of the books downfall.

The ending of this book sets things up for a sequel nicely, even in this ARC there is a chapter or two of the next book already printed, so I think it should be coming fairly soon after book one is released. In the final paragraphs, I knew exactly what the next book was going to be about, without even reading the synopsis for it. And I could guess what was going to happen with Ladarat.

There is just something about this book that I found, almost soothing. I don't know if it was the Thai culture or just the matter-of-fact narration, but I just felt calm and relaxed while reading it. A little unusual for a murder-mystery I suppose, but I enjoyed the feeling. I think part of it was that there was very little suspense, so there was no sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting. You know what is going to happen, at least, for the most part.

Overall, an interesting read, but not really a thriller/suspenseful story.