Nine Man’s Murder by Eric Keith

Nine Men's MurderIt’s always nice to start with the reason I picked the book in question to review. Unfortunately, I haven’t the faintest idea how it got on my Kindle… Apparently I paid for it, and it wasn’t a bargain (reasonable price though…) Must have been recommended to me by Amazon, but I usually don’t fall for that one.

Anyway, there it was, sitting on my Kindle, taunting me with its mysterious presence, so I figured, why not? Let’s give it a go.

Never attend a reunion in a mountain-top snowy cabin, especially with only the one bridge providing access. As the nine graduates of Damian Anderson’s detective academy arrive at the summons of their old teacher – all receiving oddly worded typed invitations, and yet no-one smelling a rat – they quickly discover Damian’s corpse and, wouldn’t you know it, the bridge is blown. A meticulous search reveals that only nine people are there… well, then eight and a corpse, then seven and two corpses… you get the idea, don’t you?

It takes a brave writer to attempt to emulate Ten Little You-Know-Whats… not that I’ve read that yet, as someone spoiled it for me… so, does Eric Keith pull it off? Is there any way of surprising the reader without pulling the same trick as Dame Agatha?

I really expected not to get on with this one, but by about a third of the way through, I was hooked. Really hooked – as in, “not putting it down until I finished it” hooked. And all the way through, as the number of characters is whittled further and further down, I was convinced that the writer couldn’t possibly pull a logical solution out of the bag.

That’s what this book resembles, to an extent – a logic problem. Not surprisingly, as the author used to design the things, but it is also significantly more than that. Eric Keith has woven a backstory to the characters that resembles a spider’s web, revealing slowly the different ways in which pairs of them are linked – a large amount of which is 100% crimson herring, but important in fleshing out this hit-list of a cast. At times, I had a little trouble remembering exactly who had done what to who, but it gelled quite quickly for me. It’s worth mentioning the artful glimpses we see into the characters’ thoughts. Informative but also not enough to establish guilt or innocence.

Another clever move is in the red herrings in the present day – there are some old chestnuts that seem to be being utilised by the murderer, but tricks that the only old pro armchair detective might spot. I will give my readers a minor hint – the writer is playing a very clever game here, don’t give up by thinking that he’s going for the obvious tricks.

The choice of order of death is pretty smart too – it often nicely disrupted my suspicions by removing my suspect. Anyway, I was looking in completely the wrong direction by the end of the book.

And the resolution is clever – not just clever, but heavily clued but not in an obvious way. And it’s not the same trick as Agatha used. Oh, almost forgot, a couple of simple but clever locked room murders as well – which again, I completely failed to solve…

Much to my surprise, given the way that it snuck on to my Kindle, very highly recommended.


  1. This does sound very interesting. I love the way it just appeared on your Kindle. Maybe you were attracted because the author is a “game and puzzle designer”. I saw that on his Amazon page. I may give this one a try.


  2. I was half expecting from your intro that this would be about a mysterious crime committed by Kindle … Sounds really great Steve and after such praise I’m off to buy it too – definitely reading this one over the hols. Thanks.


    • Took me a few years but finally read this one as I wanted to give it to my niece but wanted to check the levels of sex, violence and swearing. Glad to say it was entirely appropriate – indeed, much too much so for my liking. While the logic is fair, the dialogue is utterly adolescent and very much at Scooby Do level it seemed to me. I found the lack of atmosphere and an inability to give a damn about any of the characters a real stumbling block. It’s all about the plot and the story does work but I cannot imagine ever wanting to read it again. Sorry to be so negative about it – probably just as well I’ve stopped blogging 😉


      • You’re not the only one to have the same reaction and, to be honest, my review comes from a time when plot was near everything to me, which certainly isn’t true now. Not sure how I’d rate this one nowadays…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for such a kind review. Strangely enough, over the last few months Amazon has sent me a couple of emails recommending Nine Man’s Murder to me. I was actually tempted to try reading it, but frankly, I knew I would never be able to solve it.


    • The only reason I remembered where the recommendation came from is that it’s still recommending it – it seems to be linked in some way to the Paul Halter translations – as Golden Age pastiches, I guess.

      Congratulations on such a great read. I look forward to any more that might be on the way.


  4. Oh cool. Oh cool. Oh cool. A successful play on the Ten Little Whatsits…sounds great! Wait. Does it come in print copy? Must go find out….’cause the girl is a print copy kind of girl.


    • Yay! Found it at the library. Now I just have to wait for it to land on my hold shelf. As Patrick says, you’re a dangerous fellow, Doctor. It’s not like I have books needing to be read before December’s out or anything…..but this one sounds good enough that I must get my hands on it at the earliest possible moment.


  5. Did anyone say locked room mysteries? *adds title and writer to the wish list for next year*

    Glad to read that there’s another modern crime writer out there, who can differentiate between a closed-circle of suspects and an impossible situation – especially in a And Then There Were None-type mystery.


  6. Dear Puzzle Doctor:

    Thanks for the review of Nine Man’s Murder. I’m a huge fan of ATTWN so I look forward to reading Eric Keith’s take on this classic mystery. I cannot urge you more strongly to read the original And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. When I first read that book many years ago in junior high, I skimmed to end, thought “What the—?” when I saw the last death, and then got to the part where the police can’t figure it out either and then the final explanation. The book was so good I have willingly re-read it many times with pleasure over the last few decades even though I know now whodunit and how. There is more to this book than just “the puzzle”, especially if your only knowledge of the book comes from the movies. (Reading the comments on YouTube of the 1945 film, it’s sad how many fans think that film and others is better than the good simply because it has a happy ending.) All the ten people who come to the island are guilty of SOMETHING, I like how Christie torments many of the characters in nightmares and flashbacks. I also like how the veneer of polite society is stripped away and the characters become more fearful and paranoid as the body count rises.

    If you do take up my suggestion and read this book, you will well served to get an older edition if possible. I’m not a fan of calling the locale “N—– Island”, but the current edition not only changes all “Indian” references to “Soldier”, but all the other references to “n—–” like “n—– in the woodpile” are also gone. To me, this veers dangerously close to whitewashing. Anyway, keep up the good work and I’ll try to see if Nine Man’s Murder is at my local library.


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