It normally makes a brilliant party, the murder game.

But that’s only true when no one actually dies…

What’s it about?

Secrets. Shame. The ancient history that binds friends together long past the expiration of their shared joy.

The set up: Polskirrin, a beautiful house on a remote Cornish coastline. Eight guests, two hosts and a bonus sister. Dressing up, fine dining, drinks on tap…it was all such fun a year ago, but then someone died.

Now, it’s awkward and macabre – are they meeting again to celebrate a marriage or commemorate a death? – but distraught host, Lucas, claims that death was murder, and he’s not letting anyone leave until they’ve discovered each other’s deepest secrets and unmasked a murderer…

What’s it like?

Mysterious. The central premise is fascinating and well executed, but there are many smaller mysteries along the way, all finally woven together in a shocking denouement.

At the heart of the mystery are the two couples who most of the action revolves around. Initially I felt a mixture of intrigue and frustration with these central relationships. Why does Nina support Lucas’ bizarre plan? Why doesn’t Jemma demand answers from her increasingly absent husband, Matt? At least Lucas is devastated; Matt is simply rude.

But, as the narrative continues to cast suspicion over just about everyone, it’s clear that neither wife can help if their husband repeatedly refuses to entrust their partner with their deepest secrets and sources of shame. Men: trust your women! (Also, maybe don’t do terrible things in the first place?)

Final thoughts

I really liked the premise and the way so many of the characters had secrets they were desperate to keep, though I did find Jemma a little too ready to be ignored by her husband. Personally, I would have been demanding answers much more forcefully and much earlier on, but then again, her response to the perpetrators of a rather brutal incident reveals that she is obviously a much more sensitive and forgiving soul than I am!

On a totally separate note, I wasn’t sure why we had to follow the developments in the investigating police officer’s love life, though I appreciate that this is the second in a series of books following these characters, so presumably readers of the first Sergeant Stephanie King book, ‘And so it begins’, will find this more interesting. To me, it felt like there weren’t enough pages given to Stephanie in this book to make me care about her or her love life. This didn’t bother me as I have generally found I prefer crime narratives to focus on the investigation of the crime, rather than learning all about the investigator’s personal life, but it made me question the necessity of incorporating the detective’s background at all.

Overall, I found ‘the murder game’ to be an intriguing and ultimately rewarding crime story, which ties everything together pretty perfectly at the end with a deeply sad epilogue.

‘the murder game’,
Rachel Abbott,
2020, Wildfire, paperback ARC
Many thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review and a spot on the blog tour.

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