Nine Man's Murder
by Eric Keith
Release Date: March 1st, 2011
2011 Random Note Press
Softcover Edition: 229 Pages
Genre: Murder / Mystery
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
4 / 5 Stars
Nine graduates of Damien Anderson's Detective Training Agency assembles at an isolated vacation home in northern California for a class reunion. But their host remains elusive...until he is found dead in a closet. Soon thereafter, the murders begin. One by one, the graduates are eliminated by a mysterious person who has decided to pit his wits against the guests'. As a snowstorm traps the party, the survivors come to realize that the murderer must be one of them. Yet despite the guests' attempts to protect themselves, the killings continue. What is the killer's motivation? Is an old grudge at work? Could the explanation be related to a series of mysterious accidents on the set of a film titled Nine Man Morris, which the classmates had investigated fifteen years earlier?
With elements of Harper's Island, Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, and the game Clue, Nine Man's Murder was a fun murder mystery that tested the abilities of the reader to deduce the clues and to see what was basically lying right in front of you the entire time and to see if you caught it or not. Mr. Keith creates a mystery based on facts, betrayal, and deceit, and leads you through a murder mystery that is interesting and reminds me of the old-style mysteries that I used to devour when I was younger.
I read this novel twice for when I reached the ending, and did not figure out the who-dun-it, I was somewhat upset with myself, so I read it again more slowly to see exactly what I missed. I've come to the conclusion that if I were one of the players on the island, I would probably have been one of the first to go as I missed some pretty obvious clues and the murderer would have had no problem getting to me. I rather enjoyed it a lot more the second through as well, putting the pieces together, and using the map of the house rather effectively. I wished I had used it the first time through as things would have made more sense and I'm sure I would have figured it out if I had used the map that was provided with the book, and penciled in some of the clues as I went along.
This is not the type of book where you become close to the characters, and some of them you don't really have time to empathize with as they die fairly early on, but what I liked is that they didn't do silly things in the face of their fear, like in the movies. As fully trained detectives, the characters analyzed the clues in front of them, without giving any of the plot away, a rather effective tool on the author's part as I looked back in hindsight, and went about methodically trying to solve the crimes. It was only towards the end that you could feel the tension building as there were fewer and fewer left alive. While not on the level of Agatha Christie, it was still effective in its own right.
Nine Man's Murder was a rather clever who-dun-it that I enjoyed, filled with characters who have secrets and are tied by bonds that go back fifteen years, it's also a story of whom can you actually trust when you have to?!?! Written by an author who delights in creating mind-bending logic puzzles and games (try out his Zedix Square when you have a chance and you may never play Sudoku again), I hope he continues to write his suspense-filled novels in the future.