Atticus McLaren is happy with his life and the way everything is going. He has his own cottage – well it’s sort of a garden shed really – and he has a job he enjoys in the back of the museum where almost no-one can bother him.
Of course, nothing lasts forever, and soon Atticus is juggling a mystery unfolding at the museum, a very chatty photographer, and solving family disharmony that has gone on just a bit too long.
Atticus McLaren works as a museum technician, working outside of “social hours” and in the back of the museum where he is happiest. When he’s not at work, he’s tending to his projects at home in a cottage at the end of Professor Emerald Lemmons’ garden. Atticus looks after the garden, and Emerald helps him to stay on track. Life is straight-forward, it makes sense and Atticus is quite happy.
Peace and quiet never last long though because soon Atticus notices some strange goings on at the museum – though no-one quite believes him – and an equally odd photographer, Freddy Spinner, literally falls into his life (and his garden for that matter). Strange soon turns to something more serious when someone tries to run Atticus down one evening on his way to the museum. Freddy convinces him to go to his estranged brother, Scout, for help and resolving family conflict is another thing Atticus isn’t quite ready to dive into (though he isn’t given much choice).
The following morning brings more urgency in solving the mystery when it transpires that Atticus wasn’t the only intended victim the previous night and, by comparison, he got off quite easy. Though, with Freddy and Scout at his side now, Atticus may actually have half a chance of solving this thing…
I think the Atticus series falls under what is termed the ‘Cozy Mystery’. While I read a lot of crime novels, reading the descriptions of Cozy Mysteries revealed that they were quite a departure from the usual crime books I read. There’s a certain style to ‘Cozies’ which Horton seems to hit very well in my opinion; given that ‘Cozies’ are often novella or short-story length there needs to be a solid balance of pace and progression with making sure that the story doesn’t rush the reader through. While I was surprised (and a little disappointed) to get to the end of Murder at the Museum so quickly, I didn’t feel like I had been rushed through the plot.
I was incredibly pleased to learn that there were more books though!
I’m not sure if it’s a common stylistic approach for this genre of mysteries or a personal author’s choice, but the book is written in a third-person omniscient point-of-view. This isn’t a point-of-view I tend to enjoy reading; I find them a little confusing in places, and I had to read back a few times to double check whose ‘head’ I was in, but overall it didn’t stop me from enjoying the book. I think that one is down to personal preference, so individual readers’ experiences will vary.
The characters are delightful and Atticus has realistic and naturally altering interactions and banter with different people. While Atticus and Freddy are stand-out characters and their interactions are entertaining, the ongoing development and working through of the historic family rift between Atticus and Scout is also well done. Secondary and tertiary characters like Emerald Lemmons and Cornelius Smith (the museum curator) also have time dedicated to them so that even within such a short book, you get a good foundation for their characters.
The plot-line is pushed forward with urgency as the mystery progresses from simple strange occurences into more serious crimes and yet it remains in-keeping with the ‘Cozy’ style. Serious events happen and there are scenes of action or where there is risk to the characters, and it flows well into a short but enjoyable read.
Autistic Rep Review
One thing that stood out for me with Atticus was that he wasn’t a young protagonist, and that was a positive point for me. Often autistic characters in fiction are teenagers or young adults, but there have been several books with older autistic protagonists making their way onto the market, and it was positive to have Atticus be in his mid-forties. It also made the family history and conflict that much more realistic because there had actually been time for it to develop.
Atticus displays several autistic traits without ever tumbling into stereotype territory, and it’s nice to read more and more books where the special interest/passion for the autistic protagonist is something unrelated to maths or numbers. His social and communication difficulties come across as very natural and so too does his bewilderment by the responses and expectations of other characters. I particularly enjoyed how his perseveration on his particular interests are demonstrated in his dialogue.
I’m sure I’ll have more to say in future reviews of the other books, but suffice to say I liked the autistic rep in this book.
An enjoyable Cozy mystery which is carried along strongly by it’s diverse and interesting characters. Along with the solid autistic representation, this book also has LGBT+ representation and neither of those are the focus of the story but still remain important as part of the characters. I am delighted to find a book series that has all of this. It goes to my Top Shelf – Sparkly Rainbow rating.