Book review: The Murder Game by Rachel Abbott

I’ve loved all Rachel Abbott’s books so was very excited to read this. What an irresistible concept – a group of friends brought back to a house in Cornwall where a murder was committed a year ago, to find out whodunnit – and who must pay.

We were all there that day. Now one of us is dead…

The first time Jemma and Matt were invited to Polskirrin – Lucas Jarrett’s imposing ocean-view home – it was for an intimate wedding that ended in tragedy. Jemma will never forget the sight of the girl’s body floating towards the rocky shore. Now, exactly one year later, Lucas has invited his guests back for a macabre anniversary. But what Lucas has in store for them is nothing like a candlelight vigil. Someone who was there that night remembers more than they’ll admit to, and Lucas has devised a game to make them tell the truth.

Jemma believes she and Matt know nothing about what happened… but what if she’s wrong? Before you play a deadly game, make sure you can pay the price…

One of the things I love about Rachel Abbott’s books is that although police POVs are included, the procedural element is never the main focus of the story. I’m far more interested in what goes on in characters’ heads than what it’s like to be a police officer. As with the Tom Douglas series, DI Stephanie King appears late in this story when we’ve had a chance to really get to know the characters and their situation.

The bonus in this book is the superb setting – a Cornish manor house perched on a headland with formal gardens and woodland leading down to the sea.

What I loved most about the story was the lurking menace and build up of tension. As usual, all the characters are multi-faceted and believable – although certainly not likeable. Throughout, they’re all looking at each other wondering who knows what and who’s guilty of what, and who their secrets are safe with.

I found Lucas especially intriguing. Why’s he chosen this method of establishing guilt and what’s he hiding about his own past? Jemma was the easiest to empathise with, being the outsider in the group. Her marriage to Matt has disintegrated since the night of Lucas and Nina’s wedding and they haven’t spoken about the tragedy since.

Although I had a hunch about the murderer, all of the characters had secrets and could plausibly have been involved, and it was the whydunnit that really intrigued me so I was fully immersed right up to the thrilling end.

I’d thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed The Guest List by Lucy Foley or One By One by Ruth Ware.

The Murder Game is published by Wildfire, an imprint of Headline and is available in hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook here


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