Author: Eric Keith

Publisher:  Ransom Note Press
ISBN:  978-0-9773787-7-7
 
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Eric Keith’s Nine Man’s Murder is a bold attempt at duplicating Agatha Christie’s mystery, And Then There Were None (also called Ten Little Indians in the movie version).
 
Did he live up to the attempt?  Synopsis and critique below.
 
Nine people are invited for a reunion at the isolated vacation home of their mentor, Damien Anderson.  They are all part of the graduating class 15 years ago from Damien’s detective training school. 
 
When the guests arrive, Damien is not there.  Only later do they discover his body, a sinister note, and their exit from the retreat (a bridge) is blown up.  The note is taunting their abilities as investigators and explains that they are all going to be murdered one by one.
 
After searching the grounds and determining that the invited graduates are indeed the only inhabitants at the retreat, they work to solve the mystery. When the first of their classmates dies, they become increasingly concerned and suspicious of each other. 
 
Each person has reasons to be a suspect.   Secrets revealed, past love affairs gone wrong, dissolved business partnerships, jealousy, and resentments abound.  Gideon Lane blames his classmates for the accident that left him wheelchair-bound.  Reeve Argyle and Amanda Farrell are former lovers.  Bryan West and Jonas Cruz had a detective agency together.  Each grudge, each secret is tantalizingly inserted right at a point when you think you have it all figured out.
 
Integral to the story are a few subplots. 
15 years ago the graduates were given a mystery to solve:  what caused the tragic accident at a theatre set – the name of the play was Nine Man’s Morris.  Another subplot deals with mobster Antonio Capaldi:  some are working on putting him behind bars and some have a ‘relationship’ (wink, wink) with him.  Do either of these situations factor into the stranded classmates’ current plight?

 
One by one the classmates are picked off in one form or another.  If you know Christie’s And Then There Were None, you will anticipate that one of the victims isn’t really dead.  But who might that be?  When another person is murdered, more than one person always inspects the body.  It doesn’t seem likely that anyone is fooled or in cahoots.  In the end, one of the nine is left standing.  But he is not the culprit.  Suddenly there are two.  Now three are still alive.  Incredible!  The complete story unfolds and the pieces all fit together.  I dare you to figure it out ahead of time.
 
In one way it was a shame that I had read Christie’s book.  She was such a genius at building tension and creating mysteries.  In her book, a note was left after every murder.  It would contain a line from the nursery rhyme Ten Little Indians.  For instance the first one was:
Ten little Indians went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
 
That person was poisoned to death.  To make it even more sinister, a figurine, ten in all, that was placed on the dining room table would go missing.  As each person died, another note was discovered and another figurine removed.  There was something so diabolically malevolent about that, that you were almost afraid to think of the next line of the poem. 
 
So while I loved Nine Man’s Murder – the pacing was excellent, the character development well done – I did not see the mounting drama and tension that I was expecting since I couldn’t help but equate Keith’s book to Christie’s.  Also, I thought the people were a little too calm and collected, especially as the body continued to stack up.  A normal person would be near hysteria (at least I would be).
 
The ending was great, though.  I had kind of pegged one particular person as the murderer but couldn’t figure out how they did it.  The twist was masterful.  Bravo! 
 
I would recommend this book, even if you are a Christie fan or maybe because you are. 
 
 
 
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