Book Review: A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

Most of my content on this blog had veered towards writing and reviewing classical books, but do not get the impression that I don’t have very vocal thoughts for recent books that I’ve read. So today I’m starting a new series; that of book reviews. If all my lovely followers like this, or hate it, be sure to let me know. Now, unto the review…

My favorite types of books include adventure, murder, romance, history, and most importantly, great characters. I love the type of book that defies expectations and breaks writing rules in a unique and clever way.

So when I heard about a book that combines time travel, an FBI thriller, and a cozy historical mystery all into one, I was hooked! Sadly, not every book can as great as the premise.

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain tells the story of rogue FBI agent Kendra Donovan, who goes to England to catch the man behind her latest disastrous mission which ended in a dear friend’s death. However, as she disguises as a maid for a period dinner party and witnesses her target killed in front of her, she stumbles down a dark passage…and comes out on the other side in 1815.

Once there, she befriends the resident Duke and his arrogant nephew Alec, and is hired as a maid (though she has no service experience what-so-ever, is more than a bit suspicious, and is clueless about most everything 19th century). She is not there more than a couple days before a body of a prostitute shows up in the castle lake and she must profile a serial killer and decide whether she wants to stay or wants to go home.

Non-Spoiler Review

Honestly, there were a lot of drawbacks to this book for me personally. The first was the length. Sitting at a staggering five-hundred pages (plus a Roman numeral prologue), it felt a bit long. Don’t get me wrong, I love long books, whether an epic fantasy like Lord of the Rings or classics like War and Peace. However, in order for a book to be long and not feel long, there needs to be a lot of complexity, whether in plot and characters. This book, unfortunately, just felt long.

There were a lot of scenes that didn’t add anything to the plot and characters.

Speaking of the characters, I never felt attached to any of them (I’ll get into this more in the spoiler section of my review). Certain characters were just caricatures and the rest often acted completely out of the characteristics they were given, especially Kendra.

The historical context also was a bit seedy at times. It is clear that the author did a lot of research into common accents, even breaking into French at one point. Many of the ideals of the time—for example, how servants are expected to act—is realistic, but other things seem to be changed just to make them more PC for the audience—such as referring to the Romani people as Romani instead of the widely used English term of gypsy (while derogatory, it would be realistic for the time).

My last biggest criticism (again, I will get into details in the spoiler section) is that there were a lot of unexplained things left unfinished. Some of this can be chalked up to this being the first book of a series (the second book being A Twist in Time, which came out a few months ago). However, many of the things in the modern age seemed rather pointless when Kendra traveled to 1815. The first six chapters take place in the modern age, and so does the epilogue, but besides that there is little importance given to characters and action in the modern day (say for the experience and knowledge it gives Kendra).

Now, unto the spoiler part of this review.

Spoilers Ahead!!! (You have been warned)

My first complaint is that it is never explained who killed Green, the man Kendra leaves the FBI to hunt and whose death prompts her to jump back in time. It is mentioned at the end of the book that the FBI believe Kendra is probably the murderer, but that is all. In fact, Kendra seems a bit too busy kissing Alec at the end of the book to care about going forward in time. Again, this may be explained in the sequel, but honestly I didn’t like this book enough to read the sequel.

Speaking of Alec, I have some huge complaints about him. First of all, he was like a dashing marquis right out of a sappy historical romance. His entire portrayal seemed to revolve around him being a stuffy lord who fell for a modern girl. Outside of that—besides his estrangement from his brother Gabriel—he had little personality or motivation.

Kendra was a really interesting character to me in the beginning, especially as they mention she is a “superbaby,” created in a lab to be super-intelligent. Let me just say, besides her have crazy ridiculous knowledge about literature like Tom Jones and Jane Austen, and knowing her job as an FBI profiler—as any FBI agent would—she never really struck me as super-intelligent. In fact, after Rose is murdered and she starts drinking and acting like a fool, I was convinced that her parents switched her with a real superbaby by accident…I just was never convinced she was that intelligent. I mean, at the end of the book she goes to confront Thomas the hermit alone, without backup. No trained FBI would do that, unless she was an idiot and relied completely on impulse.

There are many points in the book when Kendra has an internal monologue with herself for pages. The book spends several pages just describing Kendra going by the lake to eat an apple, or thinking of Rose’s—the maid who she befriended—murder. Again, this comes back to how long the book was for how many unnecessary scenes there were.

While the murder mystery aspect was quite interesting, I figured out Morland was the murderer at about page 300 (out of a 500 page book). In fact, the solution seemed a bit too obvious. Perhaps this is just me, as I have read a lot of murder mysteries and can easily guess who the murderer is. So take this comment with a grain of salt. But still, pointing out that Morland’s mother looked similar to the victims was just a point that seemed too convenient to not be connected to the murder. So the ending wasn’t as shocking as the building of the conflict suggested it should be.

I think this book suffered with just too many things going on. It was trying to be a historical murder mystery, modern thriller, romance, period drama, and hard sci-fi all at the same time. Because of this, it felt as if the author just tried to fill it with too many things and the characters and action really suffered for it. As I said in the beginning, this is not a horrible book, just one that wasn’t great.


Usually I’m not this passionate when I read a book. However, this book had every aspect about it that makes my ideal book. It combines history with the modern, time travel, murder mystery, period romance. It has everything! And yet it fell short for me.

If you’re interested in reading this book, check it out on Amazon here.

If you’ve read it, what do you think about it? If you haven’t, does it sound like the kind of book you would be interested in reading? Let me know down in the comments and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

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