Review: The Greeks of Beaubien Street by Suzanne Jenkins

Detroit Detective Stories

Book 1 of The Greektown Stories

 

Title: The Greeks of Beaubien Street

Subtitle: Detroit Detective Stories

Author: Suzanne Jenkins

Genre: Family Saga, Mystery

Year of Publication: 2012

Published by: Jenkins Associates LLC

Series: The Greektown Stories

Rating: 3/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read! This book contains adult themes and language!

The Greeks of Beaubien Street is the first instalment in Suzanne Jenkins’s mystery/family saga series The Greektown Stories which revolves around Jill Zamos, a Greek American detective who lives in Detroit with her large family. In this first book, she works on the case of a murdered young woman named Gretchen Parker, whose lifeless naked body was found in a remote alley. At first glance, the premise of the book should form the main plot of the novel. However, there’s also a secondary plot through which we enter into the universe and day to day life of Jill’s family. Even though I’ve enjoyed reading about Jill, her father Gus who owns a grocery store and the lives of their other relatives, I felt that their family history (seasoned with problems like infidelity, misunderstandings and rivalities between the in-laws) overshadowed the plot about Gretchen’s death. There’s also an esoteric aspect thrown into the novel (Jill has visions linked to the murders) which don’t make sense here. I think that a detective should work with evidence and logic to solve a case, not with visions. However, Jill is not only superstitious and spiritual, but also intelligent, observant, professional and caring when it comes to her father and her brother who suffers from a mental disorder.

If you think that some of the issues of the Zamos family are a bit questionable, such as a dark secret that threatens to break the family apart, just wait and see (I mean read) how Gretchen’s life has been. It’s such a disturbing issue that my mind wasn’t capable of imagining it.  I know that I’m very vague, but I don’t want to get too deep into the subject because it makes me cringe. Though this book is part of a series, I hoped that the narrator would state clearly who actually killed Gretchen Parker, but the ending was very abruptly and I was still left with unanswered questions. That’s definitely not a good sign for a mystery book.

I really feel that there are too many characters and stories for a single book (or first instalment) and I totally understand why other readers were disappointed by this book because they were predominantly interested in the mystery. Though the two plots are loosely linked to Jill and the theme of family and its dark secrets, they belong to very different genres and as much as I would like to tell you otherwise, they don’t go well together. It’s like the author couldn’t decide if she wanted to write a mystery or a family saga and ended up writing about both.

Even though the novel needs another round of editing, I enjoyed reading about Jill’s extended family, her childhood, the relationships between the in-laws, traditions, Greek cuisine, Jill’s colleague Albert Wong who is a gay Asian American character I liked and Alex, Jill’s Polish boyfriend who loves art, but ended up working at the morgue. Most of the characters are pretty well-developed and there were some I liked such as Jill, Gus and Albert, but there were also some I really despised. However, now, after a few months after reading the book, I can’t say that I remember all the relatives Jill has.

In the end, I think that the novel would have been better either as a mystery or as a family saga, not both. I’m not particularly recommending it because it has some disturbing stuff in there and not everyone has the stomach to read about that subject. Also, I’m not planning on reading the rest of the series.

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