Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet).

Responses to Sophie Hannah’s A Game for all the Family range from love it to hate it, so I decided to read this and see for myself. Here’s the blurb:

Justine thought she knew who she was, until an anonymous caller seemed to know better…

After escaping London and a career that nearly destroyed her, Justine plans to spend her days doing as little as possible in her beautiful home in Devon. But soon after the move, her daughter Ellen starts to withdraw when her new best friend, George, is unfairly expelled from school. Justine begs the head teacher to reconsider, only to be told that nobody’s been expelled – there is, and was, no George. Then the anonymous calls start: a stranger, making threats that suggest she and Justine share a traumatic past and a guilty secret – yet Justine doesn’t recognise her voice. When the caller starts to talk about three graves – two big and one small, to fit a child – Justine fears for her family’s safety. If the police can’t help, she’ll have to eliminate the danger herself, but first she must work out who she’s supposed to be…

A Game for all the Family mixes elements of gothic mystery, suspense and thriller into an unusual read. Why unusual? Clever writing devices are used to draw in the reader, such as a mystery within a mystery and a story within a story, strange shifts in behaviour from characters, mystery surrounding Justine’s work history, and so on. And yet, as the story drives to a conclusion, in which the mystery should be solved, there’s an overwhelming sense that the reader has been played, been drawn into a game in which they don’t know the rules. It’s like the story is one strange TV episode after another, directed by Justine (a former TV producer) in an increasingly crazy series that’s both frustrating and compelling. Readers are asked to suspend disbelief repeatedly, and in the end, it was too much. I’m ambivalent towards this one – one hand, I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened, but at the end, I felt frustrated and cheated. Make up your own mind on this one.

Available from good bookstores (Hodder & Stoughton RRP $29.99AUD). My copy was courtesy of Hachette.




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