A mysterious box arrived at my front doorstep a few months ago. It contained a hand trowel, a pencil, some note cards and one of the most gripping and clever psychological thrillers I have ever read. Thank to the team at Hodder & Stoughton and BookBridgr for sending me a copy of A Game for All The Family!
Justine thought she knew who she was, until an anonymous caller seemed to know better…
After fleeing London and a career that nearly destroyed her, Justine Merrison plans to spend her days doing as little as possible. But soon after the move, her daughter Ellen starts to seem strangely withdrawn. Checking Ellen’s homework one day, Justine finds herself reading a chillingly articulate story about a series of sinister murders committed at the family’s new house. Can Ellen really have made all this up, as she claims? Why would she invent something so grotesque, set it in her own home and name one of the characters after herself? When Justine discovers that Ellen has probably also invented her best friend at school, who appears not to be known to any of the teachers, Justine’s alarm turns to panic.
Then the anonymous phone calls start: a stranger, making accusations and threats that suggest she and Justine share a traumatic past – yet Justine doesn’t recognise her voice. When the caller starts to talk about three graves – two big ones and a smaller one for a child – Justine fears for her family’s safety. If the police can’t help, she’ll have to confront the danger herself, but first she must work out who she’s supposed to be…
“There are some stories so unimaginably horrifying that no normal imagination could produce them.”
It’s been forever since I’ve had this much fun reading a crime thriller novel. From the very first page of A Game For All The Family, I was hooked and ready to get to the bottom of this case.
The story flicks between Justine and her family and the story of the Ingreys, a family plagued by murders. I initially panicked as I’m not a big fan of books where the point of view changes a lot. However, I’m glad that I stuck it through because I ended up really enjoying switching back and forth between the two families and slowly beginning to see how the Ingreys are involved in the nightmare that Justine is currently going through. Readers with a keen eye will also appreciate how the tale of the Ingreys serves to foreshadow later events.
The title, A Game For All The Family, could not be more apt. It did feel like one frightening game. In the beginning I was totally convinced Ellen was lying, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. While the identity of the person who has been harassing Justine is predictable, I did enjoy the non-stop thrilling ride that the book took me on to get to the conclusion. Also, bonus points to George Donbavand for sneaking in a title drop with the chilling “Monopoly’s fun with two players but four or five is ideal. It’s a game for all the family!” Monopoly has never sounded more sinister.
Speaking of George Donbavand, I must praise Sophie Hannah for all the excellent, complex characters she created in A Game For All The Family. Characters that I do surprisingly miss now that I’ve finished reading. Especially Figgy the dog who was an adorable ray of sunshine in a dark, twisted novel where people dig graves in each other’s gardens. Crime writers take note, what your books are missing is a cute little dog named after a line in a Christmas carol!
Justine was fierce, determined and I bow down to her. Initially, I wasn’t fond her of her harping on about how much she enjoys doing “nothing” for a living any more. But as the novel begins to unravel I found her becoming more likeable. With sassy remarks like “The caller addressed me as Sandie. Not Alex. How often do you ring a friend and then, when the friend’s spouse answers the phone, think “Oh, well, even though Susan’s answered, I’ll just say ‘Hello, Geoff’ anyway because she’s Geoff’s wife and that’s close enough” and “I’m forty-three. I can go where I like” that had me laughing out loud, it was hard not to like Justine.
The vast array of supporting characters add to the addictiveness of the novel and kept me on my toes. Almost everyone seems shady. I would’ve liked to see more George Donbavand. He scarily reminded me of someone in one of my college classes with his eccentric behaviour. Ellen, however, infuriated me to no end. I get that she’s fourteen and heck, I was annoying at fourteen, but her starry-eyed attitude when it came to George and her arrogance towards her mum eventually got tiring.
Sophie Hannah played with my mind so much throughout this novel that I was worried by the end of the book that I might get a bit loopy if I don’t get satisfying ending. The climax when the identity of Justine’s caller is finally revealed may have been a little bit obvious, but Hannah still managed to throw in a shocking curve ball that included a fire poker.
A Game For All The Family was a wild, perplexing mystery packed full of red-herrings. Fans of Sophie Hannah and crime fiction will definitely not be disappointed. A Game For All The Family is one of the best psychological thrillers this year!
Big kudos to whoever at Hodder & Stoughton and BookBridgr who came up with the creative idea to send it out in a box complete with A Game For All The Family related goodies!
Watch the official book trailer for Sophie Hannah’s A Game For All The Family below.