If you are a fan of the recent Netflix hits Glass Onion and Knives Out, then you will enjoy this original and quirky crime story, Everyone in My Family has Killed Someone (Penguin Random House 2022) by Benjamin Stevenson. Wry, funny and full of mystery, this is a crime novel with a difference. Narrated by Ern Cunningham, the book begins with a list of 10 rules for crime fiction writers, moves quickly onto a covered-up murder, and then settles in for some truly madcap scenarios at the Cunningham family reunion in an isolated ski resort.
The prologue begins with a cracking opening: ‘Everyone in my family has killed someone. Some of us, the high achievers, have killed more than once.’
Ern’s brother, his stepsister, his wife, his mother and father, his (former) sister-in-law, his aunt and uncle, his stepfather and Ern himself have all, you guessed it, killed someone. Some are historical crimes and some occur during the storm at the mountain resort, with the snow (and the body count) piling up. This book is a whodunnit but it also addresses a whole host of other questions including ‘who will die next?’, ‘how will the next victim die?’, ‘who will this character kill now?’, ‘who is hiding what secret?’ and ‘who should I trust?’. The answer to the last question is ‘nobody’.
Inspired by the traditions of great detectives such as Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple, the story involves a group of people forced together in an enclosed space, unable to leave despite knowing there is a killer amongst them. There are twists and turns, red herrings, misunderstandings, fakery, lies and revenge. Ern is the author of self-published books about writing crime stories, so there is an interesting meta level of complexity to his narration of the story. He inserts himself often, addresses the reader directly, admonishes his editor, and generally gives a highly original narrative in a format rarely used in this genre.
The book is divided into sections, each titled with one of his relatives. That chapter, predictably, goes on to disclose who that person has killed. But the inventive backstories and the eclectic circumstances are far from foreseeable. This novel goes in some very weird directions.
It is clever, well-plotted and tongue-in-cheek hilarious. The characters are all mysteriously appealing and as each layer of the story is peeled back, the strangeness of the story and its characters only becomes more compelling.
A great holiday read, and a fascinating and insightful parody companion to traditional crime novels.