Not all murder mysteries want you, the reader, to solve them. That’s the Sherlock’s job. Only they can see how intricately the pieces interlock, forming a shape that, while narratively satisfying, remains out of reach for the average person. There’s always a clue that’s buried too deep, or even deliberately withheld. In short: the detectives, and their mysteries, don’t play fair.
And then there’s Ernest Cunningham, who practically spoils the ending – but only if you’re paying attention.
Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is the latest from author and stand-up comedian Benjamin Stevenson, following his previous crime novels Greenlight and Either Side of Midnight. It’s evident that Stevenson knows the genre inside and out; EIMFHKS begins with Ronald Knox’s 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction, a series of golden rules that make for satisfying murder mysteries. Stevenson – and his narrator Ernest, who writes books about how to write mystery novels – promises to abide by these rules. In fact, he recommends you earmark the page for future reference. You should; you’ll need it.
Because Stevenson – under the guise of Ernest – wants you to solve the mystery. He even tells you on which pages the murders happen. Consult this as you see fit, Stevenson will remind you when we’re close to another death. Better still, keep a notebook and pen beside you at all times; you’ll have to earn your detective stripes. Clues are veiled behind words with double meanings or nestled in a seemingly innocuous paragraph. If something looks suspicious, make a note of it. Everything you need is lying under the surface of the text, while still remaining deliciously elusive. You may wish to stop after each section to look over your clues and hypothesise. Or maybe develop one of those corkboards riddled with thread as you piece everything together. Wait patiently for those lightbulb moments.
Reading Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone was the most fun I’ve had with a murder mystery since watching Knives Out (2019). It’s well-paced, wickedly funny and, most importantly, built around a mystery you can actually solve. I gobbled it up within a week, and then wished I could wipe my memories of all traces of it, just for the pleasure of reading it all over again for the first time. Whether you’re a well-seasoned Murderino, or it’s your first foray into the genre, be sure to add it to your reading list.
Reviewed by Melina.