🖋 🖋🖋🖋🖋 This book is expertly written and I enjoyed every part of it—the humor, the foreshadowing, the red herrings, the playing on and pulling on expectations to subvert them. This is a master class in gritty comedy, and a beautiful example of how to use a genre to pull off one of the most incredible reader experiences in the genre.
🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪 This book gets five knives for violence. While none of the deaths happen on screen, Stevenson does not shy away from the more gory details of how a serial killer kills their victims. However, the deaths are not the only violent parts of this story. If you're squeamish, there are a few places you may want to skip ahead. It’s very matter of fact and the violence is handled well. All in all, not as violent as would be expected from a book declaring a main cast of killers, however, it is not for the faint of heart.
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ I’d give this book five stars for its incredible execution. In my position as an editor and writer of mysteries and suspense, it takes a high skill level to pull the wool over my eyes. Stevenson did that brilliantly, keeping me guessing and entertained throughout this family drama-turned thriller. I guessed the killer when I was meant to and not a second sooner, despite having my theories throughout.
💋 This book only gets one kiss for mentions of potential "spicy" encounters. This book is not a romance, and Stevenson does not lie in the prologue when he writes there are no "spicy" scenes in this book.
The Cunningham family has been apart for too long after an (understandable) falling out due to the arrest and conviction of Michael, the oldest son, for a murder Ernest, the younger son, witnessed. Scheduled for the day of his release, the whole family (including the newly extended family members who married in) meet at a ski resort in the Australian mountains for what is meant to be a heartwarming reunion.
As Ernest juggles the guilt of helping send his brother to prison with the additional conflict that comes with still having most of the money his brother killed for in his possession, tensions rise between all members of the family.
When an unidentifiable body turns up in the snow under circumstances that bring more questions than answers, the fractured family must figure out how to work together to clear Michael's name for a murder he couldn't have committed, as the legacy of their father's crimes continues to haunt their present day.
I really loved this book. It had me laughing, flipping back pages to confirm my theories, enjoying the details of the printing and the production as much as the writing itself. The best way I can explain the experience of reading this book (both print and ebook, the text varies slightly to create the most similar experience possible) is that this book knows it's a book and constantly breaks the fourth wall.
Narrated by a character who makes his living by writing and selling books about how to write a mystery, every trope of the genre, all the old rules of classic mystery writers for how to write a mystery, everything that will keep the reader guessing is on full display. Stevenson exhibits a mastery of the mystery genre, blending comedy and drama into an experience far beyond the words on the page. These characters are vivid and jump from the page in a realism that makes you wonder if the Cunningham family truly does exist, if this may be a veiled biography of Stevenson's own life experience rather than a fictionalized narrative.
Hilarious and intense, Everyone in My Family has Killed Someone is a love letter to the mystery genre and entertaining through the very last page. But its humor does not draw away from its depth, tackling questions of family, loyalty, and how far someone will go to express their love and a desire to belong.
I highly recommend this book for lovers of the mystery genre, and especially to mystery authors. I'm sure the humor will be enjoyed by readers and writers alike, but there's something specific about the comedy of a mystery writer ending up as the sleuth that speaks to all the mystery writers out there, letting us live our fantasy for a brief duration. I'm excited to dive into Stevenson's other works.
Title: Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone
Author: Benjamin Stevenson
Published: March 29th, 2022 by Mariner Books
A note on how I review fiction books:
I have a few genre-specific review criteria (out of 5):
Knives (🔪) for how much violence/gore/death there is in a book.
Pens (🖋️) for how well I feel the book was written, this includes grammar and plot.
Kisses (💋) for how much romance or how many/how spicy romantic encounters are in the book and how well it's written.
Stars (⭐) for how likely I am to recommend the book to someone.
I will then provide a summary of the book and a few final thoughts.
J. J. Hanna is a writer and reader of suspense, crime, thriller, and mystery novels. If you'd like her to review your novel, reach out to her on the contact page. She may review your book even if it doesn't fall into those genres.