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What Strange Creatures

3.38  ·  Rating Details ·  540 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
Scandal, love, family, and murder combine in this gripping literary mystery by critically acclaimed author Emily Arsenault, in which a young academic’s life is turned upside down when her brother is arrested for murder and she must prove his innocence.

The Battle siblings are used to disappointment. Seven years, one marriage and divorce, three cats, and a dog later, Theresa
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 22nd 2014 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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Aug 04, 2014 Diane rated it it was amazing
What drew me to Emily Arsenault's book was that it revolved around an adult brother-sister relationship. That's not something you see all that frequently; there are many books with sisters' stories- Lisa See's Shanghai Girls, John Searles' Help For The Haunted and Louisa May Alcott's classic Little Women to name a few- but stories featuring brother-sister relationships are not as numerous.

Arsenault's book pulled me in from it's opening line: "What are you supposed to do on the second night your
Apr 01, 2014 Amanda rated it really liked it
Theresa Battle has already been divorced, and she has the houseful of pets, an unfinished dissertation, and a dead-end job to prove it. She’s not surprised though – as she says repeatedly, the Battles are used to disappointment. Even her brother Jeff wanders through life, with his girlfriend Kim as his only solace. When Kim is found dead, and the evidence stacks up against Jeff, Theresa is determined to prove her brother’s innocence. And no, it’s not just to get rid of Theresa’s puggle, who she ...more
Sep 14, 2014 Benjamin rated it it was ok
The description on the book jacket is a lot more exciting than the actual book. Not that it's terrible. But if you're like me, "not terrible" isn't really a sufficient reason to read a book. One thing that stood out to me (and that has never stood out to me in a novel before) is the descriptive filler the author used whenever the characters in the book would engage in dialogue. It really felt pointless a lot of the time. It was so mundane. Here's a paragraph from p. 244 of the paperback, to give ...more
May 29, 2014 Victoria rated it it was amazing
I have read and enjoyed two of Arsenault’s previous novels, so I admit to having some high expectations for this latest novel. And it actually surpasses those hopes! The humour and realism of the relationship between the adult siblings, Theresa and Jeff, leaps off the page. Jeff’s first appearance on the page actually made me laugh out loud! It is this consistent humour that really sets this book apart from her other novels. The mystery itself, while certainly engaging, is far from unpredictable ...more
Lea Wait
May 24, 2014 Lea Wait rated it it was ok
Emily Arsenault is a wonderful writer, and Theresa, her protagonist in WHAT STRANGE CREATURE, is very likeable. Charming, strange ... but not unlike someone you might know. She has a weakness for men (including her brother - although not in a sexual way) who are just plain strange .. and I won't even mention Emily's mother. This is a mystery .. Emily's brother's girlfriend is found dead, and he is blamed for the crime. But her investigation heads in sundry corners ... where she finds out a lot m ...more
Mahala Church
Sep 17, 2014 Mahala Church rated it it was ok
I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway.

The first paragraph of Emily Arsenault’s What Strange Creatures sets the tone for the entire book. “What are you supposed to do on the second night your brother is in jail on a murder charge? Should you watch The Colbert Report? Should you clean the black crud from behind your kitchen faucet? Should you make yourself a smoothie with protein powder?” The protagonist doesn’t get much further than that in making decisions or solving problems. I suppose,
Jul 27, 2014 Vivian rated it liked it
3.5 star read

You wouldn't think a divorced doctoral student, her older unemployed brother, a former juvenile delinquent turned author turned college professor, a former Hare Krishna member cum bartender, and a waitress would have much in common (especially when the waitress winds up dead). Throw into the mix the life lessons learned from a 14th century holy woman (want-to-be saint and author of the first autobiography) and murder and you have the makings for what first sounds like a disaster. Am
Thomas Edmund
Arsenault's offering 'What Strange Creatures' is itself quite the strange creature. The novel can't seem to work out whether it is a thriller, Nancy Drew mystery, or literary novel of family dynamics. Unfortunately this is not a brilliant piece that melds all three, but a mediocre tale that falls short in each.

The first warning sign was the beginning, the dramatic start of a the protagonist's brother being accused of murder very quickly prompts a massive groan at we jump back 3 weeks in a blatan
Nov 30, 2014 Kristen rated it it was ok
Shelves: library, 2014-reads
Two star on Goodreads says "it was ok," and that describes this book quite well.
Theresa Battle and her brother, Jeff, have always had bad luck. Theresa is divorced, works in an unfulfilling job, and can't finish her doctoral dissertation on Margery Kempe. Jeff seems aimless, working odd jobs, and not really amounting to much, considering he's supposed to be a 'genius.' Then, Jeff's girlfriend goes missing and is found dead, and Jeff is the primary suspect. Theresa doesn't believe that her broth
Jan 25, 2016 Becky rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, fiction
I loved the first novel I read by Emily Arsenault ("In Search of the Rose Notes"), but I found this one so boring that I nearly stopped reading it 3 or 4 times within the week-and-a-half it took me to finish it. I didn't particularly like any of the characters, and instead their quirks just made me dislike them. It dragged on and on while nothing happened for about 80% of the novel.

1.5 stars
Aug 27, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it
Bought on a whim because I could relate to the main character's bio and ended up liking it a lot more than I thought. Will have to check out the author's other books now.
May 05, 2017 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Lovely tangled story, which kept me guessing. Haven't read this author before, but will certainly read more from her.
April Mayer
Jun 30, 2014 April Mayer rated it it was amazing

I received this book from It is available for sale right now in Paperback, E-book, and Audio Formats. The book was released for sale in July of 2014.

Please keep in mind, the copy of What Strange Creatures I received is an Uncorrected Proof. This means that changes may be made in this proof copy before books are printed.

About The Novel:

The Battle siblings are used to disappointment. Seven years ago, one marriage and divorce, three cats, and a dog later, Theresa still h
Jun 14, 2017 AD rated it really liked it
Probably my favorite of her books to date.
Reeka (BoundbyWords)
As seen on my blog:

It's been such a fantastic year for mysteries, at least it seems that way to my reading belt. There has been such diversity among narratives, such solid and imaginative dodging and covering up of truths. There are a few stand-outs for me thus far, in the mystery genre, and What Strange Creatures has been added to that list. I find myself hand-pressed to describe the way main character Theresa Battle got under my skin. Her almost drab air of existence set the entire t
Jul 28, 2014 Vox rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

The Battle family has come to believe that their surname is a prophecy. As Theresa and Jeff's father would say, often with sighing resignation, "We're Battles." No lottery wins for this family, nor any happy marriages.

They're Battles, and the battles they fight are frequently lost, even before they begin.

So when Jeff is hauled off to jail, accused of murdering his girlfriend, his inability to defend himself is not just understood, it's expected. He's a fired school bus driver who soothe
Apr 18, 2014 Donnelle rated it really liked it
I always enjoy characters who utilize snark and have a dry, acerbic wit, and this novel’s main character more than fits the bill. Theresa is someone that seems plucked out of the real world: her life has been stuck in an unfulfilling routine for quite awhile, her family has more than its fair share of issues, her brother is struggling, and most of her enjoyment in life comes from her numerous pets and from the subject of her never-ending dissertation, Margery Kempe. Perhaps her most significant ...more
Jul 16, 2014 Melody rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 03, 2014 Sandie rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction

.The Battle family knows how to handle disappointments. Of course they do, they've encountered so many of them. Jeff, who has a genius IQ, has never gotten going in life. He has worked a series of dead-end jobs and drinks a lot. Theresa, his sister, has spent years working on a dissertation on a medieval female religious hysteric, her marriage dissolved and her years working as a copywriter for a candle company mounting. She lives alone surrounded by her pets.

Teresa worries about Jeff so when h
Jul 14, 2014 Becky rated it really liked it
Theresa doesn't mind dog watching for her brother's girlfriend for the weekend, but when Monday rolls around with no sign of Kim, Theresa starts to get concerned. A bit of poking reveals that pretty much no one has any idea where Kim is. Just a few days later, though, the hotel Kim stayed at reports her missing and her car is found abandoned. Theresa and her brother begin to do some digging and find that the girl might have been mixed up in something shady. Nothing prepares them for what comes n ...more
Sara Strand
Aug 05, 2014 Sara Strand rated it really liked it
I say it's a fun book in a really weird way because the story itself is kind of heavy. We have a dead girl, her boyfriend is accused of it and rightfully so, all of the evidence is literally pointing to him. But his sister Theresa just knows he didn't do it. She's kind of a life underachiever but she decides to take on the role of detective because she just can't stand to see her brother in prison for something he didn't do. So, that's kind of heavy. What isn't heavy is the author's voice. I've ...more
The Book Breeze
Jan 14, 2015 The Book Breeze rated it liked it
The first paragraph of Emily Arsenault’s What Strange Creatures sets the tone for the entire book. “What are you supposed to do on the second night your brother is in jail on a murder charge? Should you watch The Colbert Report? Should you clean the black crud from behind your kitchen faucet? Should you make yourself a smoothie with protein powder?” The protagonist doesn’t get much further than that in making decisions or solving problems. I suppose, at its best, the book’s humor is considered r ...more
Melinda Elizabeth
Dec 26, 2014 Melinda Elizabeth rated it liked it
What would you do if your genius although much maligned brother was charged with murdering his girlfriend?

This is the question that Theresa – a young woman already divorced and on the way to crazy catdom with her menagerie of animals and eccentric PHD thesis is faced with when her brother’s girlfriend goes missing. They start off by looking for her as a flighty woman who is unaware of people who are worried about her, as Theresa delves into Kim’s past in order to retrace her last steps before s
Jun 17, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it
Theresa Battle, is a 30-something, young woman who has been working on her PhD for seven years and still isn’t done with her dissertation. She writing about Margery Kempe, a 14th century mystic, or at least she was purported to be one.

Her lack of focus and her life in limbo is not all Theresa’s fault though. She comes from a dysfunctional family, and she’s had some setbacks along the way – a marriage and a divorce, and now she is working at a dead end job writing for a local candle company. She
Oct 04, 2015 Shaina rated it liked it
Shelves: dewey-s, mystery
Theresa Battle—and the rest of her family, for that matter—is used to disappointment. She's been working on earning her PhD for the last seven years; her thesis subject, the Christian mystic Margery Kempe, has seen her through a marriage, a divorce and the acquisition of a brood of pets. Theresa loves her brother, Jeff, but they never can seem to have a serious conversation... which makes his recent arrest for the murder of his girlfriend all the more difficult to deal with. Jeff claims he didn' ...more
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Good little vacation read that combines family, particularly a nice adult brother and sister relationship, and a better than average mystery with bonus points because there's no law enforcement, legal or private investigative tie ins! Our heroine, Theresa Battle, and her brother are pretty average folks, smart but performing somewhat below their abilities. Theresa has been working on her doctoral thesis at a rather leisurely pace for seven years and it seems the high point of her brother Jeff's ...more
Book of Secrets
Jun 17, 2014 Book of Secrets rated it really liked it
WHAT STRANGE CREATURES is an entertaining, well-crafted mystery that had me hooked from the beginning. Theresa is a divorced 35-year old who adopts a pet after every failed relationship – she’s up to four now. She works an unfulfilling job writing descriptions of scented candles, and in her spare time she struggles with her never ending dissertation on Margery Kempe, a medieval Christian mystic.

Theresa’s ordinary life is shaken up when her brother Jeff is arrested for murdering his girlfriend, a
Jul 22, 2015 Holly rated it it was ok
Siblings Theresa and Jeff Battle's adult lives are not exactly what they envisioned - Theresa hasn't finished (7 years later) her dissertation on the eccentric woman who wrote the known first autobiography; she currently works on copy for the local candle company, and Jeff, currently unemployed, was let go from his job of driving a school bus after kicking a kid off his bus one day who was picking on a chubby girl. When Jeff's girlfriend is first missing and then found dead, Jeff, who has a smal ...more
Alisha Marie
And I add yet another run of the mill book to my read roster this year.

What Strange Creatures was sort of a strange (no pun intended) book for me. It wasn't a bad book...and upon finishing it I realized that there wasn't anything that I particularly disliked (which is rare for me), but I didn't love any part of it either. It was just sort of...forgettable.

The only great thing that What Strange Creatures had going for it was Theresa. She was quirky, sarcastic, witty, and just an all around likabl
Aug 21, 2014 Patty rated it really liked it
What Strange Creatures
Emily Arsenault

My " in a nutshell" summary...

Theresa...her full time job is writing descriptive paragraphs about scented candles...while trying to finish her dissertation on Marjory Kempe...a middle class Englishwoman born in 1373. In the meantime she tries to clear her brother Jeff's name. He has been accused of murdering his girlfriend.

My thoughts after reading this book...

I kind of love funny a change of pace sometimes. Mysteries that are not too scary b
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I haven’t had a terribly interesting life, so I won’t share too many details. But the highlights include:

• When I was a preschooler and a kindergartner, I had a lazy eye and I was Connecticut’s “Miss Prevent Blindness,” appearing on pamphlets and television urging parents to get their kids’ eyes checked. I wore an eye patch and clutched a blonde doll wearing a similar patch. I imagine it was all r
More about Emily Arsenault...

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