The Murder Game (2023) by Tom Hindle

Once upon a time, in the town of Hamlet Wick, a man was killed on a beach, his head smashed in with a rock.

Years later, and a New Year’s Eve party is about to begin, with ten mostly-local guests, all of whom remember that tragedy well. The party is a 1920s murder mystery, but the game grinds to a shuddering halt almost as soon as it starts. For when the dead body is described, it appears that the imaginary victim was killed on a beach, his head smashed in with a rock.

As accusations fly as to the author of the game’s intentions, the group realise that one of the party is missing. He is soon found upstairs – he’s not on a beach, but his head has been smashed in by a rock…

My reading in January has been pretty appropriate – after all, Janus was a two-faced individual who looked in both directions and much of my reading has left me divided. Most of the books had very strong points but also had problems. And I’m squeezing this review in right at the end of the month because, yes, this fits the pattern perfectly.

This is Tom Hindle’s second book after the well-received A Fatal Crossing. This time, we have a closed-circle (not locked-room as per the author’s note) mystery in a very classic style, the country house. The suspects, despite their being quite a few of them, are we – I was a bit well-drawn. I worried while we were being introduced that I would forget who was who, but that didn’t prove to be a problem. There’s some lovely backstory concerning two crimes set in the past, and the victim does a good job of annoying everyone before he is conveniently murdered. All in all, it’s clever and it’s well-written – you might recall I had an issue that I didn’t find the suspects in A Fatal Crossing that distinctive, but that isn’t the case here. We get the point of view from about four different characters but that isn’t enough to give the game away, and the solution is a clever one.

But, dear Puzzle Doctor, you said you were divided on it. What was the problem? Thank you, dear reader, for paying attention. The problem is one that might or might not be a problem for you. I’ve read a lot of mystery novels – no, really – and my good lady wife considers me smarter than the average bear. The book hooked me so I was trying to solve it – which is a good thing. And I did – which is a good thing. What’s not so good is that I solved it pretty early – I found the important hints a bit too obviously hints, if you get my drift. Not that I didn’t enjoy finding out that I was right, but I’d be really curious if this was just me.

I definitely recommend this one – it’s a well-told beautifully layered mystery and very well constructed – but do let me know in the comments below, without spoilers, if you read it, whether I’m in the minority or the majority. I think it might be the former…

The Murder Game is out from Century Books in hardback and ebook this Thursday, 2nd February.


  1. Yes that’s the problem with Tom Hindle’s books. The solution is SO obvious. It was exactly the same with A Fatal Crossing. He needs to team up with someone who can plot as well as he can write.


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