Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Stranger at Sunset by Eden Baylee

About Eden Baylee

Eden Baylee left a twenty-year banking career to become a full-time writer. Incorporating some of her favorite things such as travel, culture, and a deep curiosity for what turns people on, her brand of writing is sensual, sexual, and literary.

June 30, 2014 saw the release of her first novel, a psychological mystery set in Jamaica called Stranger at Sunset.

About Stranger at Sunset

One word to describe the novel would be lengthy.

I struggled with this aspect - it seemed to drag on and on through so many sections that it became hard work.

However, with my greatest bugbear out of the way, I can now dwell on far more positive aspects. What an entertaining story! We are told that our protagonist is Kate Hampton, who heads off to Jamaica for a holiday. Once there we meet a range of interesting and rather shady characters with different views of the world to bring to the table.

The book is written from multiple perspectives, which is fascinating. With the skill of a juggler the author manages to get inside the head of so many different mindsets. I found it unusual that Kate’s viewpoint seemed to receive as much attention as anyone else’s, but this also made the story intriguing. At some points she almost retreated into the backdrop, and I can see now the author’s purpose for this. Baylee gives each character his or her due in terms of background and motivation, although the reader may have to wait in suspense to piece all the crumbs of clues together.

It reminded me of Poirot, stuck on a train with a murderer (or two or three). Certainly all the elements of a good Agatha Christie are here. Interesting characters. Chance encounters. History. A dead body. A wonderfully lavish and exotic location. But Baylee throws the prescriptive “whodunit” bible out the window and writes to her own tune, which was hugely refreshing and so enjoyable.

First of all, the murder happens in the prologue, just vaguely, through someone else’s eyes (or binoculars, actually). Not too unusual, you may think. But then we go back in time and hear about everyone arriving at the resort, and the murder itself occurs blow by blow before our eyes half way through the book. However, and here’s the twist, the reader can’t actually be too sure who the murderer and victim are. Or even, in Poirot terms, who will play detective? And who has a history with the victim? A lover? A business partner? A family member? The victim is named fairly quickly, but the red herrings for the identity of the murderer continue until the very last part of the book, and the motivations left hanging till the final page.

The roles which Baylee has given her protagonist are numerous, and extremely clever. I have never encountered a main character quite like Kate Hampton. I did not like her, which tainted my opinion of the book (it is difficult to enjoy a book whose main character you dislike), but luckily she is not front and centre all the time. Her greatest gift is her amazing mind. At times she waves away others’ compliments of her stunning memory, even though she’s the one asking about their mother-in-law by name. I found that she is at times strong and confident, at others frustratingly submissive or even foggy, and at the end, when it really sealed my opinion of her, a petulant child. There are fuzzy areas at key points in the book where I couldn’t get a handle on what she was thinking at all, and although I understand it now, I found this difficult to accept in a main character.

Baylee can write. I found the pace and timing of the flow of the story a little off; the clues unusually spaced, the reveals a little mistimed. But there is no denying that she writes well, in terms of structure and grammar. And in a writer I think this is important. I also think it’s important for a writer to have a sense of humour, which Baylee clearly has. I’m not saying that Stranger at Sunset is a comedy, or that it’s full of caricatures. What I am saying is that Baylee writes not only with passion and verve, but also at times with her tongue firmly in her cheek. And this is what I appreciate most about a writer; that they can enjoy and embrace the subtleties and expectations of their genre whilst having a little smile to themselves too.

All in all, this story is a find for Indie readers and for fans of mysteries - especially if you like a little bit of twisting!

Stranger at Sunset is Eden Baylee’s first novel and she is currently writing a second plunge into Kate Hampton’s world. However, if you are desperate to get your hands on more of Baylee’s work, she has published many novellas and short stories. To find out more, visit www.edenbaylee.com


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