The Rape Culture and Mrs. Russell: TELEPHONE LINE

Telephone Line

Book 9 in the Country Club Murders series
Author Julie Mulhern
Narrated by Callie Beaulieu
Publication date Sep 3, 2019
Published by Tantor Media
Running time 7 hrs 7 min


A killer is calling, and Ellison’s life is on the line.

Ellison Russell is planning the event of the season—and she’s stressed. Why not yoga?

Because the yoga instructor gets murdered during class—and Ellison’s stress level rises exponentially. Now, in addition to raising a ridiculous amount of money, she’s babysitting a deranged cat (named after the devil himself), taking ten million phone calls (most of them from Mother), and finding more bodies (they’re popping up like dandelions after a spring rain).

There’s no such thing as balance when the killer makes it personal. Can Ellison catch a murderer or will her next namaste be her last?


My Take Oblong Shaped


I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader’s copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.

Mulhern is possibly the most skilled at using the historic, cozy mystery with romantic elements, often considered by the lit fic crowd as a “soft” or “fluffy” genre, to present important social/cultural issues in a way that doesn’t feel like a history lesson at all.   I say that sincerely. 

I had two issues, one of series continuity and one of the repeated use of a descriptive phrase.  But that’s it.  I love the 1970s placement, as well as the mid-western placement.  And while I lived through the social turmoil known as the “Seventies,” I was in the Eastern US; where the changes were seen to be discussed, legislated and slowly adopted.  But the mid-west was thought of as a backwater, and Kansas City, as Ellison’s mother describes the perception of her beloved town, a cow town.” I wasn’t there, so I don’t know whether the mid-west was in the vanguard, or the back row. 

I only think it’s important as it applies to today’s attitudes; often the group seen as backwater are pointed to as the stalwarts of society and thus in fiction are projected as stalwart and upright, the last bastion of decorum And, so Mulhern finds the cracks in the society world in which Ellison lives but wherein she barely belongs:  she’s an artist, a single mother, treats the “servant-class” with respect and is dating outside her class.  Mulhern is also good at the breaking of societal barriers.

So when presented with the subject of “rape,” she shows us that the roots of rape, and even the use of power in a marital relationship, and by extension, socially, are more deeply rooted than the spate of rapists being treated as if they were just “boys being boys,” and a conviction or sentence might “ruin their lives.”

It was in the seventies and eighties that rape started being treated as if the rapist were at fault and not the victim.  Like all change, there’s always a back swing, and that, I believe is what Mulhern is speaking to in TELEPHONE LINE — at least that is what I got from it. 

I felt the solution to the mystery was telegraphed, but also thought the point of the novel was a good story and the exploration of these social issues brought to the fore in the seventies.  As Ellison’s brother-in-law, the condom manufacturer, says the sexual revolution has been good for business. The changing social attitudes to sex is also touched upon.

The narrator is, once again, perfect at bringing Ellison, and the other characters, to life.  I love the entire series and felt this book explored a subject no one likes with sensitivity. 


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