Monday, March 31, 2014

Murder, Murder Everywhere!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A bunch of people are gathered together under one roof for a weekend straight from hell. You see, people begin to die one-by-one, and before long, there’s a pile of corpses and a murderer running loose. Before the weekend is out, can the guests figure out which of them is the cat among the pigeons? Can they solve the game of Nine Man’s Murder?

The scenario might strike you as yet another imitation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Maybe you’ve read that book, and you might think to yourself that you are therefore very well-equipped to solve the crime. Well… so do the characters in Nine Man’s Murder. They are fully prepared to sidestep the mistakes made by the characters in that book (and incidentally, the solution to that book is spoiled in this one, but it’s out of necessity, so fair warning). Yet somehow, the killer manages to outfox them all and one by one the guest list gets shorter.

The author of this tale is Eric Keith, and this book is good. I mean really good. The plot, which includes a few locked room mysteries, is very neatly worked out, with all the i’s dotted, the t’s crossed, and the zeroes properly carried. It assumes that readers are familiar with many of the same old twists in this kind of story, and so it manages to exploit the assumptions that come with the territory. The result is an excellent solution that makes logical sense, and which didn’t have to resort to disappointing tricks like a master key.

As a result, this made for an excellent read. The characters were okay, but the best thing about them was the way their backstories made some sort of complex tapestry of plot threads. I liked coming across all these surprising connections, and it made the book a real page-turner.

According to his website, Eric Keith is “formerly a designed of logical games and puzzles” – and perhaps that’s the best comparison. Nine Man’s Murder is a logic puzzle, and it’s a complex one that I had fun trying to figure out. Any nitpicks? Well, I can name a few. For instance, there’s a defrocked Catholic priest among the guests, but his spiritual advice could have come out of a fortune cookie … But this honestly didn’t bother me, because this book isn’t about Catholicism, it’s about the mystery. And the book excels in that regard. If you enjoy logic puzzles, you’ll enjoy this book. I can highly recommend it.

4 comments:

  1. Well you convinced me, I have just downloaded it to my Kindle.

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  2. I have heard only good things about this book.

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  3. Well I am definitely getting this one (I just re-read AND THEN THERE WERE NONE), thanks Patrick

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  4. As a mystery, this book is very, very good. But there is one glaring weakness that comes up, especially since this book deliberately compares itself to And Then There Were None, and that's the pyschological terror. Agatha Christie is often criticized for poor characterization, but in her most famous book I never failed to believe that ten people were trapped on an island, getting murdered one by one, and becoming more and more terrified. In this book, the characters seemed...flat. If this was any other setting, it wouldn't matter nearly as much. If you care about puzzle books and whodunits, be sure to get this book. However, if like me, you're a really, really, REALLY big fan of And Then There Were None, you might want to prepare yourself for a little disappointment.

    On the flip side is another book that is based on And Then There Were None and that's The Ex by Nicholas Sanders. It's very cheap and it's available on Kindle. The good news is that the psychological terror and tension is much higher than in Nine Man's Murder. 90% of this book is good, and I would hold it side by side with Dame Agatha's masterpiece. The bad news? It is not a whodunit. Don't look to find any clues pointing to the killer that you may have missed...there are none. And finally, when you get to the end and find out who's really responsible...you might want to throw your Kindle against the wall.

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