Lily Armitage has returned to Endgame House to play the annual Christmas Game against her cousins. But this year they’re playing for more than a chest filled with gifts. Over the Twelve Days of Christmas they will receive twelve clues, leading to twelve keys, only one of which will open a door leading to the ultimate prize…Endgame House. It’s all a game, until a murderer strikes. Now, who will survive until Twelfth Night?
The idea behind The Christmas Murder Game is intriguing. Who doesn’t love a Christmas mystery set in an isolated country home, cut off from the world by a snowstorm, filled with contentious relatives trying to unravel clues within a Christmas game, as one amongst them commits murder? What fun!
This is a book I should have enjoyed. I loved the idea of the book and wanted very much to enjoy it. But, there was very little that I found to like about it. Unfortunately, what could have been a fun take on several Golden Age of Detective Fiction tropes was instead unnecessarily complicated, frustratingly cryptic, and utterly depressing.
Maybe I’m making unfair comparisons (having just read another mystery set at Christmas involving a dysfunctional family), but the characters here are basically cardboard cutouts…caricatures meant to represent stock personalities…all of whom came across as bland, unengaging, and thoroughly unlikeable.
The narrative was written in the present tense, thankfully not first person. It felt jarring, without any rhythm or flow, making it very hard to get into the story. The author also strove to incorporate clues throughout (in the form of symbols, similes, and metaphors) but as there were so many they just became more of a distraction. And as there were forty-three chapters, there was a lot of symbolism to get through. It all became very tiring and really could have benefited from a great deal of paring down.
I was intrigued by the games (The Twelve Days of Anagrams and Title Deeds) within the story just for the reader to solve. It was really a fun idea, but attempting to insert the solutions into the narrative resulted in awkward or, in some cases, unintelligible phrases.
All in all, quite a predictable, yet frustrating, read. As I’m sure you can surmise from the above, this is not one that I can recommend.
Source: ARC made available through NetGalley by Poisoned Pen Press.