Marlene Bell is a master at using eerie, moody description to convey the tone of her story. Whether through the abominable nature of their crimes or their looming presence throughout the book (with mysterious names like “The Raven”), her antagonists tend to have an almost supernatural quality, and, although the book is very much grounded in reality, she creates the perfect other-worldly space for her down-to earth protagonists to step into. While Bell’s plot, themes, characters, and setting each have their own strengths, it’s how they work together to create a cohesive, entertaining universe that truly sets Scattered Legacy apart from other books in its genre. In this way, her authorial voice rings out through the whole of the novel, making for a refreshingly original narrative. At the same time, it’s this same standout quality that insists on readers starting with the first two books of the series before moving on to Scattered Legacy. The story is interesting enough to stand on its own (and certainly readable), but its richness is largely tied to the world building that starts in the series’ first book.
Oftentimes, the mystery genre struggles with reducing its characters to archetypes; characters may still offer some depth and, more often, intrigue, but it’s rare that we see characters that truly standout.
Scattered Legacy manages to keep readers engaged with a fast-paced, winding plot while still finding the focus to build strong characters with unique relationships. This is an impressive enough feat for a standalone novel, but Bell’s ability to create nuance and depth in Annalisse and Alec’s relationship in the series’ third installment in a way that keeps readers hanging on for a fourth book is astonishing. It’s proof that there’s always another story to tell — and not just another mystery, but another story about human relationships. Bell understands that there is always something new for characters to learn, and rises to the occasion where many other writers might lose their steam and cash in on previously established character dynamics.
In Scattered Legacy: Murder in Southern Italy, Marlene Bell tellls a riveting narrative that offers more than your typical whodunit; it provides us with a refreshing dose of humanity by way of its mesmerizing characters.