Nine Lives by Peter Swanson
This week saw the return of BBC2's Between the Covers. Well done BBC, this is the perfect show for those Autumn evenings. Each week a panel of 4 people discuss a brand new read and read one of the titles from a Booker booklist. Discussions included BYOB (Bring your own book) and if books make you cry. It's a lovely show to watch and last season included Lessons in Chemistry, which is a strong contender for my book of the year.
Today's read is by an author, whose last read I became obsessed with. Will I be as obsessed again?
The envelope is unremarkable. There is no return address. It contains a single folded sheet of paper. The envelope drops through the mail box like any other piece of post.
But for the 9 complete strangers who receive one, each of them recognising only their own name on the enclosed list, it will be the most life-altering letter they ever receive. It could also be their last, as, one by one, they start to meet their end.
I believe that it was last year that I became a tad obsessed with Rules for Perfect Murder. That novel featured in Richard and Judy's picks, and was about a murder linked to a blog run by a bookshop manager, Malcolm Kershaw. I loved it and was a little afeared to read this because it is loosely based on a book by another of my favourite authors, Agatha Christie - And Then There were None. I needn't have been so worried, it was fab!
From the opening list, the description of each of the nine, we become fully immersed in the thick of the action. Slowly and surely, each member on that list is picked off one by one. But it is not necessarily clear who is going to be the next victim. Swanson turns the suspense ratchet and at times, is not afraid to completely wrong-foot us. Our investment in one character has the rug pulled out from under us.
We feel edgy as 2 of the people on the list start to exchange messages, becoming friends and then more. But is it a trap? Is one of them the killer? What about the LA resident with murderous tendencies? Is this too obvious? Believe me when I say you will spend the novel on the edge of your seat, or like me staying awake to read one more chapter into the wee small hours of the morning.
The characters are wonderfully flawed, human, scared and difficult.
All in all, this has been rather a marvellous read. It is of course reminiscent of that great Christie novel, but wonderfully updated and respected. Loved it.