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by Peter Swanson
William Morrow, March 2022
336 pages
ISBN: 0062980076

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Agatha Christie fans will both recognize and enjoy Peter Swanson’s latest novel, NINE LIVES, and Swanson himself slips in references to Christie's works and plots in a nod of acknowledgment to his predecessor. But while the plot may be familiar, Swanson's re-imagining of it is still entertaining and holds plenty of surprises.

The story opens with snippets of the lives of nine people, each of whom has received a mysterious list in the mail. The list includes their own name as well as the names of eight strangers and evokes varied reactions from the recipients. Alternating among the people on the list, Swanson builds interesting characters with fully imagined lives, making the reader care about (mostly) the people he portrays. Of course, this being a murder mystery, people begin to die, and the reader watches the plot unfold, gathering bits of information from each vignette presented to gain an understanding of what's happening and why. Each character is interesting enough to keep the reader involved, as is the overall arc of the story, and everything is tied neatly up at the end—after a few unexpected twists.

NINE LIVES is a fast read, due in part to short chapters but also because the action moves quickly. Most characters are quickly drawn, but the well-chosen details Swanson includes give a full enough picture that they all feel well developed. Settings add to the interest because the action takes place across the U.S. and beyond, so we get to enjoy a bit of travel mixed in with the mystery. The various settings also help keep NINE LIVES from being a straight take-off from Christie's And Then There Were None, as do other surprises along the way, but Christie fans (and anyone at all familiar with the original) will still be able to draw straight lines between Swanson's novel and its source. That's not to say the connection is detrimental; Christie fans will appreciate the homage as well as the original touches in Swanson's novel.

While NINE LIVES peripherally includes an unstated but understood exploration of the long-reaching effects of guilt, overall, the novel is more of a fast, fun read rather than an intricately plotted tale with deep character analysis. And while the motive and plot are fairly expected, the killer and actions are nicely surprising, the characters are all worth following, the pace is enjoyable, and the twists and turns are compelling.

§ Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, March 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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