Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 22 July 2014
Format: Paperback, 384 pgs
Theresa Battle is a divorced woman in her thirties; has three cats and a dog, and working as a copywriter at a local candle company. Theresa also has a passion in reading and researching Margery Kempe. She was the subject of Theresa's dissertation way before her divorce but never got around to finishing it.
While she is smart though somewhat eccentric, her older brother Jeff is towards the loyal and trusting type. Regardless of their personality difference, they are quite close with each other. It is partly due to the fact that their parents were divorced when they were younger, and that they are so used to disappointments in their lives. But Jeff's life changes after he has met Kim, an attractive waitress in her twenties. He appears happier, and Theresa feels happy for him although she is skeptical of Kim. She simply thinks they aren't meant for each other.
Her worry came true when she agreed to dog-sit Kim's dog for a weekend and Kim didn't turn up. Just when Theresa wonders about Kim's whereabouts, she receives news that the police has found Kim's body and Jeff is the prime suspect.
Theresa believes Jeff is innocent, but the evidence pointed otherwise. Desperate and eager to clear Jeff's name, Theresa began her plan to dig into Kim's past life and unravel a series of secrets involving politics, murder and scandal. As if those aren't enough, she found herself entangled in a dangerous romance.
Emily Arsenault's What Strange Creatures is a wonderfully written literary mystery filled with suspense with a tinge of political and legal elements. The case revolving Kim's death is filled with complexity and doubts, and very often I found myself as vexed and clueless as Theresa but that's the beauty of the story. It just sucks you in and never let go until you've reached the last page.
Towards reading third-quarter of the book, I realised this story is more than a mystery. It is also a story about humanity and what some people will do under circumstances; and most of all, some things aren't the way they seem to be.
What I liked about this story is the relationship between Theresa and Jeff. Theresa's faith in her brother is so strong that one could even taste it. She may think the Battles family is cursed with disappointments, but I think it's a good thing that she hasn't given up on hope.
Another thing I liked is the literary style even though this is a mystery. I think it is rare to see these two mixed together, but author Emily Arsenault has done it well. (I've to say I've learnt quite a few things about Margery Kempe although I don't even know who she is in the first place.) I'll be sure to check out Ms. Arsenault's other works.