Scenes of the Crime by Jilly Gagnon

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: September 5th, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Contemporary, Adult, Whodunit

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | Kobo | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

An ambitious screenwriter tries to solve her friend’s disappearance by recreating their fateful final girls’ trip in this riveting locked-room mystery from the author of All Dressed Up.
A remote winery. A missing friend. And a bunch of sour grapes.

It should have been the perfect spring break. Five girlfriends. A remote winery on the Oregon coast. An infinite supply of delicious wine at their manicured fingertips. But then their center—beautiful, magnetic Vanessa Morales—vanished without a trace.

Emily Fischer was perhaps the last person to see her alive. But now, years later, Emily spots Vanessa’s doppelganger at a local café. At the end of her rope working a lucrative yet mind-numbing gig on a network sitcom, Emily is inspired to finally tell the story that’s been percolating inside her for so long: Vanessa’s story. But first, she needs to know what really happened on that fateful night. So she puts a brilliant scheme into motion.

She gets the girls together for a reunion weekend at the scene of the crime under the guise of reconnecting. There’s Brittany, Vanessa’s cousin and the inheritor of the winery; Paige, a former athlete, bullish yet easily manipulated; and Lydia, the wallflower of the group.

One of them knows the truth. But what have they each been hiding? And how much can Emily trust anything she learns from them… or even her own memories of Vanessa’s last days?

Suspenseful, propulsive, and interspersed with scenes from Emily’s blockbuster screenplay, Scenes of the Crime is an unforgettable mystery that examines culpability, the shiny rearview mirror of Hollywood storytelling, and the pitfalls of female friendship.

First Line:

I’d made it about thirty precent of the way through the most glaringly insane round of script notes known to man when a ghost walked into the coffee shop.

Scenes of the Crime by Jilly Gagnon

Emily is struck by inspiration after seeing the doppelganger of her missing friend in the cafe where she was revising a television script. She decides that Vanessa’s (her friend) story needs to be told. But to do that, Emily must solve a fifteen-year mystery: What happened to Vanessa the night she went missing? The answers lie with three other people there that night: Brittany, Paige, and Lydia. Emily leans on Brittany to have a girls’ weekend at the vineyard where they last saw Vanessa. But not everyone wants to be there, and everyone has secrets about that night. Will Emily be able to tell Vanessa’s story? Will she solve what happened that night fifteen years ago?

When I read the blurb for Scenes of the Crime, I knew I wanted to read this book. I, along with millions of other people, love reading about cold cases. This book would be just that: the reopening of a cold case. And it was. But it was also a story about secrets, friendships, and how those secrets can destroy lives.

What was interesting about Scenes of the Crime was how the author wrote it. The author told the present-day story from Emily’s POV, with Brittany, Paige, Vanessa, and Lydia having their chapters. But, it was also written as a screenplay to tell the story fifteen years ago, complete with editing notes. I liked it because it gave insight into the girl’s frame of mind the night Vanessa disappeared and the girl’s weekend.

The main storyline was well-written and kept my attention up to the point when the author started to reveal the girls’ secrets. Everything after that, though, I thought was overkill. I had figured out what happened to Vanessa reasonably early in the book. So, to add that extra bit of drama about her grandparents disowning her and the will didn’t do it for me.

The mystery angle of the book was well written, but the author stretched it thin. How? Well, at one point, five different mysterious scenarios were going on. The author did a great job of keeping them separate, but I still got them jumbled up. The primary angle (what happened to Vanessa) was twisty, turny, and often unbelievable. I wasn’t surprised at the considerable twist that occurred almost at the end of the book (see previous paragraph), but I was surprised at who was involved. Then, I was astonished at what happened to that person. It was almost too much.

The end of Scenes of the Crime was almost anticlimactic, and I wasn’t a fan of it. With everything that went on that weekend, this is how it ended up. I was happy for Emily, but dang.

I would recommend Scenes of the Crime to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and sexual situations.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam, NetGalley, and Jilly Gagnon for allowing me to read and review this ARC of Scenes of the Crime. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

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