“Everyone in my family is a killer. Everyone in my family is a suspect.”
The Cunningham family reunion was something that Ernie was dreading, having not seen his family since he did turned his brother Michael into the authorities for killing someone. Now, however, the family is all getting together for a reunion in an isolated ski resort – including Michael who has been released from jail.
When the dead body of a stranger is discovered in the snow, it seems clear that only one of the family could have done it. It’s up to Ernie to find out which of them it was – only there’s a slight problem. Everyone in the family has killed someone. But which of them was the murderer this time?
That description is hiding something important about the book. You see, the book is narrated by Ernie and he… well, he knows he’s writing a book. It’s written as if it’s almost a conversation between the character and the reader, with meta-nods all over the place. For example, early on, the reader is told, just in case they want to know where the grisly details are, the page numbers where the deaths occur. To rub it in, at one point the reader is told not to worry if a character is dead or not because we’re on a page number that was not in the list.
I was going to write this review yesterday – that’s when I finished the book and that was the publication date – but I needed time to decide whether this book was incredibly clever or deeply irritating. And to be honest, I still can’t decide.
This sort of game playing is hardly unique. The obvious book that springs to mind is John Dickson Carr’s The Nine Wrong Answers, a book that I love (and some other people hate) but that one doesn’t overdo it. At times, I felt that there was just too much clever-clever going on and dialling it back would have made it more palatable.
It’s a clear love-letter to the classic detective novel, and it’s definitely more successful that something like Eight Detectives. The Knox Decalogue is brought up often, as are “in detective stories, this would be the point when…” sort of comments. I’ve mentioned it before but people in mystery novels who say “if this was a mystery novel” is one of the things that gets on my nerves, so that probably didn’t help. The author announcing himself not to be unreliable and then, at the end of the novel, not being entirely honest was a bit of a pain too.
However, what you do have here is a well-constructed mystery and it is certainly an entertaining read. I can’t help but feeling that it’s my personal gripes that are getting in the way of me loving this book, as there are plenty of clues and red herrings flying around here and some fresh ideas – the shady background of the family for example – being used. The author does a good job of not making every revelation related to the murder plot, with a lot of the family secrets being clued and guessable for the reader.
All in all, this was an interesting read and very well constructed but I think I’d be hard pushed to say that I loved it. There were too many bits and pieces that didn’t click for me – maybe reading The Twist Of A Knife recently, another, although more subtle, modernisation of the genre didn’t help. I can’t deny though that this is a very clever piece of work and I did like it. I just didn’t love it and at times I wanted to slap the narrator. Having said that, a lot of people seem to really love it – Kate at Cross Examining Crime for example – so you probably will to, unless you’re a grumpy old sod like me.
Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is out now from Michael Joseph in hardback and ebook. Many thanks for the review e-copy via Netgalley.