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Friday 24 April 2020

‘The Murder Game’ by Rachel Abbott

Published by Wildfire,
16 April 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-5494-8 (HB)

Eight people meet for a weekend to commemorate a sad anniversary. A year ago they were also together, that time for a wedding, but the wedding never happened, because the groom’s sister was found drowned on the morning it was to take place. Now they’re back – and he wants to know who killed her.

Rachel Abbott’s new novel is a masterclass in the art of building a plot piece by painful piece, and binding it together with suspicion, emotional manipulation, and disintegrating relationships. Alex, the drowned girl, had a twelve-year history of depression and lack of confidence, following a horrific experience in her early teens; in many ways her suicide was no surprise. But Lucas, her brother, seems convinced someone else killed her, and that the culprit is one of the weekend guests.

As is always the case in Abbott’s work, the clues lie in the characters and their relationships with Alex. The exceptions are Jemma and Chandra, who met her for the first time over the wedding weekend, and Nina, Lucas’s bride-to-be, who also wasn’t around at the time of Alex’s ordeal. Surgeon Matt, financial wizard Nick, sailor Andrew and Nick’s feckless twin sister Isabel have known Lucas since childhood. 

As the weekend progresses, already fragile relationships are stretched to breaking point as Lucas insists they play a game which involves reliving the evening before the not-wedding. Then the police arrive...

Everything about this novel seems to be in vivid technicolor, especially Lucas’s beautiful house and grounds on the glorious Cornish coast in high summer. The gradually unfolding plot grabs the reader by the throat from the outset and holds tight until the final twist, which is totally unexpected but completely inevitable. The vibrant characters seem to leap off the page; The police officers, intuitive DS Stephanie King and well-organized DI Gus Brodie, have history. There is plenty under the surface of each of the weekend guests. Uptight Matt is clearly hiding something; flamboyant Nick turns everything into a joke; quiet Chandra is a calming influence; observant Jemma sees more than is good for her; Andrew seems a little bewildered by it all; Isabel is self-seeking and acid-tongued. Lucas the host is living on the edge; his wife Nina is desperately trying to keep things together; and Alex, the dead sister, floats around the background adding to the discomfort.  

Rachel Abbott has already established herself as the queen of twisted suspense, to borrow the words of one newspaper critic; The Murder Game only serves to enhance that reputation. 
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Rachel Abbott was born just outside Manchester, England. 
 She became a systems analyst at the age of 21 in the early 1970s and formed her own software company in the mid-1980s designing computer programmes for education.   The company expanded into all forms of interactive media and became extremely successful. The sale of the company in 2000 enabled her to take early retirement and fulfil one of her lifelong ambitions - to buy and restore a property in Italy.  Once there she completely restored a ruined monastery and started a second successful business renting it out for weddings and conferences. In 2010 she embarked on her third career and wrote her first book Only the Innocent.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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