I read “When Day Breaks” because I was looking for a good mystery, and that’s exactly what I got. A good mystery. Just not a great one…
I will say that Mary Jane Clark does a great job with the overall mystery itself. This mystery lover was grinning as suspect after suspect was being introduced, each with their own reason for hating soon-to-be murder victim Constance Young. Adding a little extra spice to the mystery was the inclusion of a valuable unicorn pendant from medieval times that may or may not be related to Constance’s murder. Ms. Clark did a masterful job balancing the multitude of suspects to keep the reader guessing.
Of course, the make-or-break moment for a mystery is the solution, and Ms. Clark excels here as well. It drives me nuts when mystery writers try to shock their readers, so they come up with an unlikely twist that only comes as a complete surprise because it makes no sense! To Ms. Clark’s credit, she plays fair with the reader. There are clues given throughout the story as to who the guilty party is…granted, the real clues are mixed in with a lot of red herrings…and I mean a LOT of red herrings! I was very pleased when I got to the reveal and it made perfect sense with what had happened throughout the book.
So why am I only giving this three stars? Well, while I enjoyed the mystery itself, I can’t say the same for the characters. Honestly, I just found most of the characters to be dull…especially the protagonists! Sure, lead character Eliza Blake seems like a nice enough person, but she lacks the wit and charisma of an Alex Cross or a Stephanie Plum. To make matters worse, much of the dialogue is dry and uninteresting. Speaking of the dialogue, there were also times where Clark had characters reveal plot exposition in such a clumsy manner that it took me completely out of the book. For example, someone mentions the character Stuart Whittaker, and the other person says, ‘You mean the guy who made millions from designing those creepy video games featuring dragons and medieval castles?” Seriously, who talks like that?!?
Another problem was that some parts of the book really test the reader’s suspension of disbelief. MINOR SPOILERS HERE – I knew I was in trouble in the first few chapters when it was revealed that the aforementioned valuable unicorn pendant had been stolen from a museum. Not only was this priceless artifact astonishingly easy to steal, but the museum doesn’t even notice it’s missing at first…despite the fact that it’s the centerpiece of their exhibit opening in just a few days! Another problem was that some characters actions just didn’t make any sense at times. One character in particular displays such poor survival skills, they make the scatterbrained victims from the Friday the 13th movies look like Mensa members in comparison! Granted, an explanation was given for why this character acted this way, but it still seemed like a real stretch. END OF MINOR SPOILERS
So, in the end, I found “When Day Breaks” to be very much like murder victim Constance Young herself…pleasing on the surface, but rather shallow underneath! Still, Mary Jane Clark did a good enough job crafting the mystery that I would definitely be willing to give her another chance.