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The Mystery Writer: Book summary and reviews of The Mystery Writer by Sulari Gentill

The Mystery Writer

A Novel

by Sulari Gentill

The Mystery Writer by Sulari Gentill X
The Mystery Writer by Sulari Gentill
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  • Published Mar 2024
    400 pages
    Genre: Thrillers

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About this book

Book Summary

There's nothing easier to dismiss than a conspiracy theory—until it turns out to be true.

When Theodosia Benton abandons her career path as an attorney and shows up on her brother's doorstep with two suitcases and an unfinished novel, she expects to face a few challenges. Will her brother support her ambition or send her back to finish her degree? What will her parents say when they learn of her decision? Does she even have what it takes to be a successful writer?

What Theo never expects is to be drawn into a hidden literary world in which identity is something that can be lost and remade for the sake of an audience. When her mentor, a highly successful author, is brutally murdered, Theo wants the killer to be found and justice to be served. Then the police begin looking at her brother, Gus, as their prime suspect, and Theo does the unthinkable in order to protect him. But the writer has left a trail, a thread out of the labyrinth in the form of a story. Gus finds that thread and follows it, and in his attempt to save his sister he inadvertently threatens the foundations of the labyrinth itself. To protect the carefully constructed narrative, Theo Benton, and everyone looking for her, will have to die.

USA Today bestselling author Sulari Gentill takes readers on a rollercoaster ride in The Mystery Writer, a literary thriller that turns the world of books and authors upside down and where a writer's voice is a thing to be controlled and weaponized, to the peril of everyone who loves a good story.

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. The author includes snippets from conspiracy theory chat rooms almost immediately in this story and continues their use throughout. What was your first reaction to that part of the storytelling? Did it make you think you were about to read a particular type of novel? What do these passages accomplish in terms of the larger story?
  2. Theo's bold decision to abandon her law education and the career path she was expected to follow in favor of pursuing her passion— writing— had some unexpected, some danger- ous, and some surprising results. Given what happens to her character throughout the book, do you think she would have been happier if she had stuck with law and the more stable, traditional lifestyle it...
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Media Reviews

"Certain late-stage reveals, which might ruin the fun in less capable hands, only serve to enhance the novel's biting wit. This is a winner." —Publishers Weekly

"Fans will rejoice that Gentill maintains her record of packing stand-alone novels with devilish twists on genre conventions...A fizzy whodunit with pace, panache, and surprises galore." —Kirkus Reviews

"Gentill's worthwhile novel is full of compelling characters, including doomsday preppers, online conspiracy theorists, and overzealous publishing agents. Recommended for readers who enjoy mysteries from Riley Sager, Ruth Ware, or Louise Penny." —Library Journal

"Gentill's latest...slowly unravels as a traditional mystery, but then evolves into a self-aware, Grisham-esque thriller. Readers will root for Theo, then for Gus, to find the answers they need to find closure. With likable side characters (including a dog named Horse) and a truly unexpected third act, The Mystery Writer is sure to please literary crime fans." —Booklist

This information about The Mystery Writer was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own reviewwrite your own review

Mitra V. (Stamford, CT)

Riveting page turner
The Mystery Writer by Sulari Gentill fulfills the tantalizing promise of its title in more ways than one. It keeps the reader spellbound with its racy style of narration and builds the urgency of the plot while seamlessly fleshing out the personalities of the protagonists to perfection. It is impossible to forget the protective affection of Gus, the bewildered genius of Theo and the quiet care of Marc without being drawn into the emotional web. One gets angry with Gus and weeps with Theo in equal measure. The use of Marc's family to illustrate the role of conspiracy theorists is a smart innovation and enhances the mystery of the book.
It is also impossible to get over the perfidy of the publishing house which preys on unfortunate indiscretions of talented writers to enslave and exploit them forever. It is scary to realize that this could well happen!
I would gladly recommend this book to discerning readers with the assurance that it will definitely not disappoint.

Reviewed by Mitra Vasisht

Chris H. (Wauwatosa, WI)

The Mystery Writer
I found this book to be immediately engaging! Each time I put it down, I was eager to to find out what the next trick would be. The Mystery Writer is the perfect mix of interesting characters and intriguing, entertaining storyline. I plan on seeking out more books by this author.

Cloggie Downunder

Another page-turner!
The Mystery Writer is the third stand-alone novel by award-winning, best-selling Australian author, Sulari Gentill. When Theodosia Benton arrives at her older brother, Gus’s home in Lawrence, Kansas, having abandoned her law course in Canberra, she’s not sure of the reception she’ll get. But Gus doesn’t let her down: he’s thoroughly understanding and happy for her to stay.

They will, together, decide what and when to tell their feral parents but, meanwhile, Theo finds Benders Bar/Café, an accommodating and friendly spot where she can pursue her dream: to write a novel. She’s not the only writer taking advantage of the indulgent staff, and eventually she and Dan begin chatting about writing, with the older man offering much appreciated feedback and advice.

Only after some months does she learn that Dan Murdoch is an internationally acclaimed bestselling author, and the attractive, expensively-tailored woman who occasionally joins him is his agent with the coveted Day, Delos and Associates. Just as her manuscript is nearing completion, their mentor/mentee relationship takes a turn, one Theo cautiously welcomes, but which is unfortunately short-lived.

That Gus Benton is a junior partner in a respected law firm when Theo finds Dan is his kitchen with his throat slashed is fortunate for her, but less so for him. His partners are none too pleased with the publicity that results when Theo seems to be the only suspect on whom the police are focussing. When Gus’s house is besieged by press and Dan Murdoch fans, they are lucky to have a bolt hole with a friend.

An unexpected development after Dan’s death is the approach by his agent, who tells her that Day, Delos & Associates is interested in Theo’s novel. Veronica Cole explains their exclusivity requirements, should Theo sign with them, and Theo is a little taken aback by the level of control they insist on having. Is a writer not entitled to a private life?

Theo later observes: “The public’s interest in the lives of writers had increased with the accessibly afforded by social media and the web in general, but that very accessibility was dangerous. Online friendship was a fickle thing. Loose comments, failed jokes, or simple flares of temper could unleash a contagion of outrage and condemnation. It was no longer enough to write a good book; authors had to be photogenic, witty saints as well.”

While she remains under suspicion, and the whereabouts of Dan’s last manuscript are a mystery, and the killer remains at large, a flash of inspiration has Theo planning out a new novel, the concept of which she shares with a select few, something that might later turn out to be very important.

Several chapters are prefaced by the observations of a doomsday prepper, or comments on a forum that seem to come from conspiracy theorists, and Theo’s later close encounters with some of them are rather alarming. Before matters are finally, and very satisfactorily, resolved, Theo is stalked, there are two more murders, Theo, Gus and his friend are interrogated multiple times, evidence is planted, and there’s a police shooting that ends quite badly for one of them.

Once again, Gentill gives the reader a cleverly plotted tale with some excellent twists before the final reveal. Her characters have depth and appeal, and several aspects of her protagonist give this novel somewhat of an autobiographical feel. Another page-turner!
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press.

Cathy Thibeault

Fun mystery read
This book was fun to read. Excellent pace, fun characters, real people, and a twisty ending. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Sometimes a mystery isn't - but this one gives you some clues, some turns you didn't see coming, and a cast of characters that fill the story with humor, likable people, and scary situations. A great mix.
I highly recommend this book to mystery lovers of all ages. Additionally, if you aspire to be a writer, you will enjoy the plot, character-building, world-building, and heartless villains. Ms. Gentill's cast of characters is fascinating. I could identify with a couple of them. And off we went to solve the mystery of murder most foul!

Cassandra W. (Alameda, CA)

Highly Recommended!
"The Mystery Writer" was a well-written, standalone novel which was completely engrossing and highly recommended. (I completed reading the entire book within 48 hours!)

Barry E. (Boynton Beach, FL)

Love books about about books
Its almost 13 years since I read my first mystery about subjects involving books. From then on mysteries became my thing. In my heart those about books, libraries, writers, publishers, and authors always intrigued me the most. This book did not disappoint me either.
A disappointed lawyer to be wants to be an author, but her hippie-like parents want her to be a lawyer. She moves away to the other side of the world and thus our caper begins. Theodosia Benton, an Aussie Tasmanian, moves to the USA, where her brother had relocated many years before becoming a successful lawyer. They live in the fictional town of Lawrence, Kansas which seems to be an artist colony for aspiring authors.
Not very exciting? How wrong you will find yourself as you follow Theo towards her goal to become an author. Intrigue is everywhere. Murder, Armageddon theories and manipulation are being used to cover up, create, and destroy everyone involved. From her brother Gus to Cormac the PI who has fallen for Theo to the whole town. A complex and riveting mystery evolves. Not finishing this book would be a mistake!
Thanks to BookBrowse and Poisoned Pen Publishers for this wonderful arc.

...24 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Sulari Gentill Author Biography

Photo credit: Erica Murray

After setting out to study astrophysics, graduating in law and then abandoning her legal career to write books, Sulari Gentill now grows French black truffles on her farm in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains of Australia. Her Rowland Sinclair mysteries have won and/or been shortlisted for the Davitt Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and her stand-alone metafiction thriller, After She Wrote Him won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel in 2018. Her tenth Sinclair novel, A Testament of Character, was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Best Crime Novel in 2021.

Author Interview
Link to Sulari Gentill's Website

Name Pronunciation
Sulari Gentill: suh-LAH-ree GEN-tle

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