My Very Own Murder by Josephine Carr takes place in an upscale and venerable Washington apartment building. Aside from mentions of retired Senators, nothing particularly distinguishes the inner-beltway setting, and it could be any major American city with a sizeable international population. The focus is entirely on the protagonist and her worldview from the eighth floor. Recently divorced at fifty and living off of a generous inheritance, Anne quickly grows bored with the usual time fillers. It is at this point in her life when she is seeking direction that a message comes to her. A voice in her head tells her that a murder will be committed in the building within thirty days and she must prevent it. Deciding to take it seriously, she enlists the aid of her ex-husband, two grown children, and the cleaning lady to sleuth out the murderer and prevent the murder. Between the sex, drinks, and shopping, a bit of sleuthing occurs, but this is definitely in the cozy mystery category or borderline chick lit.
The author seems to have spent more time on Anne’s relationships than on developing a solid mystery. Through the events of the story, Anne rediscovers herself and grows in ways she was unable to in her failed marriage. In and of itself, that aspect of the story is quite compelling. However, the problems occur when Carr attempts to wrap this into an armchair detective story. At times, it is difficult to tell if the red herrings are red herrings or if in fact they are the fumblings of a not-very-well-thought-out plot. Sinister or suspicious characters are introduced and then never fully explained away. In the end, and almost paranormal science fiction explanation is given for the voice heard by Anne — an explanation that seems out of place. The author would have done better to leave this as a self-discovery coming of age story, rather than attempting to use the mystery genre for that purpose. Still, it is a pleasant escape from reality for a few hours, and likely to be popular with the chick lit crowd.