The scenario might strike you as yet another imitation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Maybe you’ve read that book, and you might think to yourself that you are therefore very well-equipped to solve the crime. Well… so do the characters in Nine Man’s Murder. They are fully prepared to sidestep the mistakes made by the characters in that book (and incidentally, the solution to that book is spoiled in this one, but it’s out of necessity, so fair warning). Yet somehow, the killer manages to outfox them all and one by one the guest list gets shorter.
The author of this tale is Eric Keith, and this book is good. I mean really good. The plot, which includes a few locked room mysteries, is very neatly worked out, with all the i’s dotted, the t’s crossed, and the zeroes properly carried. It assumes that readers are familiar with many of the same old twists in this kind of story, and so it manages to exploit the assumptions that come with the territory. The result is an excellent solution that makes logical sense, and which didn’t have to resort to disappointing tricks like a master key.
As a result, this made for an excellent read. The characters were okay, but the best thing about them was the way their backstories made some sort of complex tapestry of plot threads. I liked coming across all these surprising connections, and it made the book a real page-turner.
According to his website, Eric Keith is “formerly a designed of logical games and puzzles” – and perhaps that’s the best comparison. Nine Man’s Murder is a logic puzzle, and it’s a complex one that I had fun trying to figure out. Any nitpicks? Well, I can name a few. For instance, there’s a defrocked Catholic priest among the guests, but his spiritual advice could have come out of a fortune cookie … But this honestly didn’t bother me, because this book isn’t about Catholicism, it’s about the mystery. And the book excels in that regard. If you enjoy logic puzzles, you’ll enjoy this book. I can highly recommend it.