The Writing Class by Jincy Willett (Mystery / Fiction)

The first of the Amy Gallup series. Unfortunately I read book three first so I already knew the resolution of this one. Still liked it but it is very strange knowing “whodunit” from the beginning!

This is the story of a writing class, taught by the anti-social and acerbic Amy Gallup — who appears to have a “sniper” member. This member leaves nasty grams for students, which is bad enough, but when two members suddenly drop dead, things get a little … tense.

The writing is excellent — at least three cuts above your typical genre fiction. She loves to make lists. My favorite — her list of “funny looking words.” This included prepuce, piebald, knothole and obnubilate. She’s right — they do look funny! And I hadn’t really ever considered how words could look funny as I’m too busy absorbing them at max rate. She includes brilliant commentary on writers, readers, and the writing process.

Stay tuned for book two which I’ll be reading next…

Amy Among the Serial Killers by Jincy Willett (Audio Book / Mystery)

Writing: 5/5 Characters: 4/5 Plot: 4/5 Enjoyment: 5/5

Great title, right?

The titular “Amy” is a 70-something author and ex-writing coach — a bit of a hermit but with a soft spot for some of the members of her last workshops. Carla — an ex-child star is now the owner of “The Point” — a writer’s retreat in La Jolla. Carla is quite possibly Amy’s favorite ex-student (possibly because she saved Amy’s life in the first book — I won’t spoil any more of that as I haven’t read it yet either!). When one of the Point’s writers turns up dead, the cops wonder if the murder is connected with a spate of other local killings — hence the serial killers (note the plural!) in the title.

This is not your typical mystery. It is funny in an insightfully wry style. It is a book by and about writers and writing and is FULL of back stories, stories in progress, story planning, random story thoughts, etc. — creating a kind of fractal story universe that is somehow never confusing. I put this down to some high quality writing — excellent pacing and structure and a truly delightful use of vocabulary and phrasing. Because the characters (who are writers) are often thinking or talking about writing, there are even some lovely and humorous discussions of words themselves which I enjoyed thoroughly. The mystery aspect is good — I did figure it out a little before the characters did, but it was certainly a surprise. The story was nice and twisty and kept me well entertained. Some interesting character reflections as well, not usually present in genre books.

Audio books take more time (for me) than reading the print would, and often that means I get a little bored in parts because I can’t skim. This did not happen at all during this 13 hour audiobook which is saying quite a lot.

So what didn’t I like? While the narrator does a fabulous job with all of the different voices and her pacing and speech clarity were perfect, I did not love her natural voice — or at least the one she uses as the narrator in addition to slightly modified versions for most of the younger characters. It’s what I call a Millennial version of the old Valley Girl speak: lots of mid word tonal shifts and a slightly whiny feel. I think I’m just showing my age here because this does seem to be a popular speech pattern for younger people in some TV shows. I got over it because it was just so entertaining, but it did irritate me for a bit.

Thank you to Dreamscape Media and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this audio book in exchange for my honest review. The audio book will be published on August 23rd, 2022 — the print book is out already!