Book two in the Ever After Mysteries, A Giant Murder by Marji Laine, holds its own as a standalone novel and is a unique adaptation of one of the perhaps lesser-known fairy tales, Jack and the Beanstalk. As such, this is the first adult retelling of the tale that I am aware of, and Laine ties in the morality of the original with an aura of mystery and romance sure to intrigue readers of the Christian historical genre. Fairy tales aren’t just for children anymore, and whether readers entertain any familiarity with the original stories or not, this series is already proving to be a delightfully distinctive journey. One aspect that I find myself appreciating the most is that having prior knowledge of the foundational tale does not spoil the unraveling of the mystery; instead, it simply adds another layer for readers to appreciate!
As with its predecessor, A Giant Murder opens in the 1920s, this time in Dallas, Texas, where the protagonist, Josephine “Josie” Jacobs, goes from an add-on to the wait staff for a glamorous party to number one on the suspect list for murder. An array of tantalizing clues—including a glimpse of early forensic science—points to any number of people who wanted the victim dead, and, as was the case with The Last Gasp, I again find myself reminded of the movie Clue, particularly with Laine’s aptly-timed inclusion of subtle humor to relieve tension during some of the more emotional moments. This, combined with a lack of graphic details and a light serving of romance, makes this a very suitable read for fans of cozy mysteries.
Most importantly, the Christian element remains strong throughout A Giant Murder. Laine embraces a reflective tone that demonstrates active faith rather than rote sermons, an approach that engenders empathy and brings dimensionality to her characters. This is most apparent in Josie as she observes the upper-class and remarks to Mr. Taggert, “God doesn’t need your money…He’s only waiting for you to want to accept His free gift of life with Him and want to get to know Him.” Likewise, Porter later commends her character when he tells her, “I like the way you take such good care of the people you love. Even if they don’t know anything about it.” This is the key to the true happily-ever-after, as Josie affirms, the one that continues on into eternity and that need not be enshrouded in mystery: “You need to ask Jesus to be your Savior and invite God to be your Master from here on in. He’ll take care of any changes He wants to make in your life. And He’ll show you Himself as He works in you.” That is a greater treasure than any golden goose!