Skip to main content

Mother-Daughter Murder Night


Mother-Daughter Murder Night

Debut novelist Nina Simon brings murder right next door and then into the lives of one fractured family of mothers and daughters in MOTHER-DAUGHTER MURDER NIGHT, which is now a Reese’s Book Club pick.

Single mom Beth Rubicon and her daughter, Jack, have mostly made it on their own since Beth announced her pregnancy to her mother, Lana, when she was only 17. Dedicated to proving that she is nothing like her cold, calculating, power-obsessed mother, Beth has led more of a bohemian life, one in which she values and respects Jack's interests and hobbies, as long as they don’t get her hurt. This includes Jack’s obsession with the Elkhorn Slough that borders their tiny, homey bungalow.

"Perfect for mothers, daughters, murderers (sorry, I couldn't resist) and everyone in between, this creative and compelling book is sure to be a big hit with book clubs and armchair detectives everywhere."

Beth and Jack love the steep, scraggly hillside that leads down to the cool banks of gravel and sand that then morph into the wetlands. They also love the farmlands that fall on the other side of their home, and the unique vantage point they share with nature, wildlife and the changing nature of the tides. But no one appreciates the slough like Jack, a tiny but fiercely independent teen who works at a kayak shack as the company’s youngest, and perhaps most skilled, tour guide.

But the harmonious balance of their life is rocked when Lana --- “Prima,” as in “Prima Donna” to Jack --- announces that she has stage IV cancer of the brain, lungs and colon, if not other organs too. A powerhouse real estate agent who never takes no for an answer, Lana is just as likely to seduce a man half her age as she is to stab him with the heel of her designer stiletto, and dependence does not come easy to her. So while she agrees to allow Beth, a nurse, to help get her into the best oncologist’s and surgeon’s offices, she draws the line at taking a break from her business, and yet another line at letting Beth take care of her.

Unfortunately for headstrong Lana, brain surgery doesn’t really care where you draw your lines, and neither does cancer. Before she can say “reservation for cocktails at Nobu, and don’t forget the valet for my gold Lexus,” Lana finds herself in the last place she expected: the backroom of her daughter’s dingy, bohemian bungalow, downing pills under a wig as she watches her life fade away. She has never spent this much time in the Slough, and a murder has never happened there either. But that is about to change.

One day, while leading a kayak group through the wetlands, two of Jack’s charges stumble upon the dead body of Ricardo Cruz, a naturalist working for a local land trust. Cruz is wearing a life jacket bearing the logo of the kayak shack where Jack works, leading Jack and her customers to believe that he has drowned. But it is not until detectives show up at Beth and Jack’s door that it becomes apparent Cruz was violently murdered. As a mixed-race teenage girl, Jack is an easy suspect. Fully aware of the challenges Jack faces as a woman of color, Beth is ready to do or say whatever is needed to keep her daughter safe. But that is certainly not Lana's philosophy.

While the detectives probe Jack and her connection to the mysterious Cruz, Lana takes matters into her own hands. As she investigates Cruz’s dealings on the Slough, she discovers that another death, that of a popular and wealthy rancher named Hal Rhoads, has opened up an intriguing case of property inheritance and possibility. Rhoads was seemingly in talks with Cruz about donating his massive property and development rights to the land trust, a move that would result in the largest conserved wetland in the western United States. This is a huge win for conservationists everywhere, but mostly for Cruz and his boss, the charming Victor Morales. But further digging introduces complex stories as it seems that Rhoads’ children each had wildly different ideas for his property.

Lana immerses herself in the investigation even when Jack’s name is cleared, becoming a near-expert on all things conservation science, land use technicalities, legal paperwork, relationships between donors and conservators, and everything in between. But she has an ulterior motive. If Lana can solve this case, not only will she be protecting her daughter and granddaughter and showing her love for them, she also will prove that nothing --- not cancer, a closed business or a failed family --- can take away the power she has worked so desperately to maintain.

With all the right touches of heart, humor and whodunit, MOTHER-DAUGHTER MURDER NIGHT is the murder mystery that I didn’t know I was longing for. Nina Simon combines compelling, easy-to-root-for characters with a cozy mystery, then amplifies and elevates both with complicated, tightly woven family dynamics and timely connections to real-world issues that will resonate with readers of all backgrounds.

The mystery of Cruz’s murder and the motives of everyone involved in the land trust is perfectly matched by the mystery of the Rubicon women and their dysfunctions. Then Simon ties everything up --- yes, the murder included, although in some ways it’s the lesser storyline --- by throwing Beth, Jack and Lana together and forcing them to admit that they are stronger in their alliances than in their divisions. Maybe, just maybe, learning to depend on one another will help them be more powerful and independent than they ever could have dreamed.

Perfect for mothers, daughters, murderers (sorry, I couldn't resist) and everyone in between, this creative and compelling book is sure to be a big hit with book clubs and armchair detectives everywhere.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on September 8, 2023

Mother-Daughter Murder Night
by Nina Simon

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0063315041
  • ISBN-13: 9780063315044