Review: Everyone in My Family has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson


Title: Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone

Author: Benjamin Stevenson

Published: March 2002, Michael Joseph

Status: Read April 2022 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia


My Thoughts:

You cannot possibly read the brief prologue to Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson and not be immediately intrigued by the promise of this quirky murder mystery that breaks all the rules.

“Everyone in my family has killed someone. Some of us, the high achievers, have killed more than once.”

Though Ernest Cunningham self publishes ‘how-to’ books for crime fiction writers, he can offer no special insight when a stranger is found murdered during a high country snowstorm in the midst of the Cunningham family reunion. However when the sole police officer who responds to the report arrests Ernie’s brother, Michael, whose release from prison for killing a man is the celebratory reason for the gathering, his mother insists he clears Michael’s name. After all, Ernie is the reason Michael went to jail in the first place.

“Call me a reliable narrator. Everything I tell you will be the truth, or, at least, the truth as I knew it to be at the time that I thought I knew it. Hold me to that.”

Related by Ernest in the first person while writing a book in the aftermath of events, the storyline is roughly chronological, though with necessary digressions to explain the family dynamic, and with unnecessary, but often amusing appeals, directed towards the reader, and his editor. Ernie’s conversational tone is delightfully at odds with the escalating drama as death follows death, presumably at the hands of a serial killer with a distinct and unpleasant MO.

“Look, we’re not a family of psychopaths. Some of us are good, others are bad, and some are just unfortunate.”

Family reunions are rarely free of conflict but the Cunningham’s are besieged by it. Ernie is currently person non grata, having testified against his brother in the trial that jailed Michael for three years to the great disappointment of his mother. Ernie’s wife is attending the gathering as his brother’s girlfriend, while Michael’s wife is in attendance hoping to win her husband back. Ernie’s stepsister seems particularly annoyed with everyone, while his Aunt Katherine is demanding everyone sticks to her carefully planned colour coded schedule. And of course, people are dying.

“Ronald Knox’s ’10 Commandments of Detective Fiction’, 1929”

More akin to the classics, Stevenson cleverly subverts many of the expected conventions of mystery fiction, for example, though there is a locked room element to one of the deaths, the door is not actually locked, and he even foretells each murder, including page references in the prologue. Yet there are plenty of surprises, and importantly the pace never drags.

“Family is not whose blood runs in your veins, it’s who you’d spill it for.”

A creative and compelling whodunnit perfect for today’s jaded mystery readers, Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is witty, entertaining and ingenious.


Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Its Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon | book'd out
  2. Tracey (Carpe Librum)
    Apr 25, 2022 @ 22:09:55

    I absolutely loved this book, and my husband is starting it tonight so we’ll be able to discuss it 😀 This rarely happens, so I’m pretty excited!

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Northwoman
    Apr 26, 2022 @ 08:20:50

    Wow. I’ll have to check into this one. Excellent review.

    Anne – Books of My Heart

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Helen Murdoch
    Apr 26, 2022 @ 08:43:24

    This sounds like fun. I am just starting the second Thursday Murder Club book, also a humorous mystery.

    Liked by 1 person


  5. Dee-Ann
    Apr 26, 2022 @ 10:25:03

    I really liked this book. So many surprises and had me guessing until the end. I gave it to my son to read, who rarely read, and he is absorbed into the tale.

    Liked by 1 person


  6. Amra Pajalic
    Apr 26, 2022 @ 14:09:58

    What a great premise and voice. Love the sound of it.

    Liked by 1 person


  7. Verushka, an editor (@SydneyEditor1)
    Apr 26, 2022 @ 19:58:49

    OMG, this is brillliannnt! I NEED this in my life — definitely one of the most quirky sounding mysteries in a long time!



  8. Jennifer
    Apr 27, 2022 @ 12:58:05

    I have just bought a copy, Shelleyrae, given that you and a number of other people whose opinions I respect have recommended it!

    Liked by 1 person


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