I remember first hearing about Marie Antoinette Serial Killer at BEA this year, and thinking “OMG! I have to read that book!” It was literally calling to me in a way that was just hard to ignore. Was it the Parisian atmosphere? Or the murderous take on an already bloody historical event? I’m not sure but regardless of the reason I knew I wanted to read it. Luckily, I was able to get an advance copy, and after allowing it to sit on my bookshelf for a little bit, I finally broke down and read it. Was it worth it? Yes …. and unfortunately no.
Marie Antoinette Serial Killer by Katie Alender begins with a string of serial killings taking place in Paris, France just as young Colette Iselin is about the visit the city for the first time with her classmates. Side note: I’ve always loved the name Colette. I had an aunt named Colette and I remember being young and being slightly jealous of her name. Anyway, like I said there are a string of murders which take place right before Colette and her classmates end up in Paris. This puts everyone on edge but they refuse to let it put a damper on their trip. Except that the murders keep happening, and suddenly Colette finds herself seeing what appears to be ghost of Marie Antoinette everywhere she looks. What could possibly be going on?
From the beginning, the reader is already clued in more than the main character Colette in terms of what is actually happening. The reader is aware that the killer is Marie Antoinette partially because of the title giveaway, and also because there are sections dedicated to descriptions of the murders. These chapters are very light in taste, and do not give very much detail regarding the murders themselves. In fact, they are very quick and easy to read which I guess is good for a book that is more aimed at a younger audience. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give very much build to the story, and honestly it didn’t take me very long to figure out what was going on, and how Colette was connected into all of it. Overall, for me the murder mystery part of the book fell pretty flat which was unfortunate as it was supposed to be a main focus of the story.
Luckily, there was a bit more to Marie Antoinette Serial Killer than just a murder mystery as tangled within the events of the story is a tale of character growth for Colette. When Colette is first introduced, she is bit of a catty brat who is desperately trying to maintain her social status with her super popular friends. Why is she so desperate to hang on to her social status? Well, things have changed recently for Colette and her family, and they are no longer as wealthy as before, and that means that the status that she was so used to is threatening to slip between her fingers. Yet through out the course of the book, Colette is able to learn some life lessons, and finally begins to understand that she can stand on her own without her friends. Oh, and that deep down inside she is not the mean girl that she always pretended to be for the sake of others around her. And believe me, this is a wonderful thing since her one friend named Hannah was absolutely horrible most of the time. Yet even in her worst moments, Hannah still painted a somewhat familiar picture of what young girls can be like when social images begin to mean too much and society says that it is okay to be mean to those who do not fit into your pre-conceived notion of popularity. That being said, I still didn’t like her very much.
So, you know who I did like in this story? Like really really like? Colette’s love interest Jules. Jules is a French boy and is their tour guide for the trip. He’s a bit of a history buff because of his job as a tour guide which that in itself for someone who loves learning about history is a bit swoon worthy. But that is not the only thing that is likeable about his character. He’s also very sweet, and has a heart of gold. Also, his family is important to him, and I loved the relationship that he and his sister had together. I really liked how meeting Jules and developing a friendship and eventually a relationship with him helped Colette develop as a person. It also didn’t hurt that their relationship was set to a Parisian backdrop.
And what a stunning Parisian backdrop it was! As I have never been to Paris (yet), I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book that was set there. Fortunately for me, Katie Alender did a fantastic job of painting a vivid yet accurate depiction of Paris, where I felt like I was really there in the story. From Versailles to the Eiffel Tower, I could imagine the beautiful images, and had fun exploring the sights and the sounds with Colette and her classmates. I think that was by far my favorite part of the entire book!
All in all, in you’re looking for a light read that doesn’t make you think very hard, Marie Antoinette Serial Killer is a good choice. Also, if you’re a big fan of Paris settings or French stuff in general, this book has plenty of that and will make you feel like you are really there. However, if you’re looking for something deep and filled with an actual though provoking mystery, this probably isn’t the book for you.
Disclosure: Received advance copy at BEA 2013
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