Nine Lives by Peter Swanson

Nine Lives Cover

Publisher: Faber (Trade Paperback – 29 March 2022)

Series: Standalone

Length: 321 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Prepare yourself for an engrossing and captivating mystery from the talented Peter Swanson, with the standalone read Nine Lives.

Back in 2020 I was lucky enough to receive a very cool book called Rules for Perfect Murders (also released as Eight Perfect Murders), written by a new-to-me author, Peter Swanson.  This fantastic novel focused on a bookshop owner who discovers that a blog list he wrote about the most perfect murders in crime fiction was being used as inspiration by a serial killer.  I deeply enjoyed this awesome concept, not only because it was very unique read that served as a fantastic love letter to multiple classic crime fiction authors/novels, but also because the idea of a killer using a blog post to plan their crimes appealed to me as a blogger (think of all the Star Wars themed murders you could plan if you used my lists as a basis for crime).  I ended up having a great time reading Rules for Perfect Murders and have been interested in reading more stuff from Swanson ever since.  I recently got the chance when I received a copy of his latest novel, Nine Lives, a few weeks ago, and I quickly jumped at the chance to read it, especially as it had another unique plot.

On a seemingly normal day, nine random strangers receive a mysterious envelope at their homes.  Each unmarked envelope is unremarkable except for its contents: a single sheet of paper with nine names typed upon it.  None of the recipients recognise any of the names upon the sheets, except their own, and are baffled by the seemingly random piece of mail.  Most assume it to be an advertisement scam or a silly prank and start to go about their day, forgetting about the strange letter they received.  However, one of the recipients, an old man in Maine, is brutally killed the moment he receives his letter.

As the local police and FBI agent Jessica Winslow, who herself received one of these letters, attempt to investigate and discover the connection between the names, another person on the list is killed, this time in Massachusetts.  Quickly determining that the others on the list are at risk, the FBI jumps in and tries to protect the potential victims, but they soon discover they are facing off against an extremely clever murderer capable of killing their victims in elaborate ways.  But why is he targeting these specific people?

Desperate to find the identity of the killer before everyone on the list ends up dead, the investigators and the potential victims each attempt to find the connection between themselves.  However, it appears that they have nothing in common, as they live across the country from each other and have a range of jobs and backgrounds.  The truth behind the killings lies in a dark place, and the lengths the killer will go to for their revenge will rock everyone to their core.

This was a great murder mystery novel from Swanson, who really amped up the twists and turns to create a compelling and intriguing read.  Nine Live’s story starts off with the various characters each receiving the relevant list with their names on it in several short chapters told from their relevant perspectives, and I found this interesting introduction to be good way to grab the reader’s attention.  From there you start to get to know the characters in some detail, except for a couple of people on the list who are efficiently and systematically killed off.  This serves as a pretty good basis for this story, and I loved getting to know the various characters, as well as seeing the cool and clever investigation angle that forms around it as the FBI attempt to find the killer.  Swanson sets the entire narrative/mystery up extremely well, and there are some very clever moments at the start as important clues and hints are laid down for the observant reader.

The first few kills come quick to set the rest of the characters into a panic, and once you get to the third or fourth person on the list you start to have an idea of what the killer is after.  I felt that the novel started to get really good towards its centre, as there are some big surprises as certain events really did not turn out the way I expected.  Once a particularly massive and game-changing twist occurred, I was absolutely hooked and I honestly powered through the remainder of the novel extremely quickly.  The following plot falls into place extremely well, and I loved seeing the entire mystery unfold, especially as Swanson keeps the twists coming as more of the characters you get to know are targeted by the killer.  While I was able to see elements of the solution from a distance, I was pleasantly surprised by several reveals towards the end, and I really appreciated how well Swanson set everything up throughout the novel.  The book comes to an excellent end reminiscent of a certain classic crime novel, and readers will come away very satisfied with how this standalone read turned out.  I did think that Swanson went a twist too far, as a big reveal in the last four pages was completely unnecessary and the book would have honestly been better if the author had just left it out.  Still, this was a really impressive and fun mystery, and I had an absolutely brilliant time getting through it.

There are a lot of fun elements to this book that really help enhance the story and turn Nine Lives into an excellent read.  However, my favourite is probably the way that Swanson turns it into a massive homage to a specific classic murder mystery novel.  While I won’t reveal which one, I will say that Swanson did an extremely good job of utilising its iconic elements throughout Nine Lives.  Just like he did in Rules for Perfect Murders, Swanson provides a detailed examination of this classic novel through his character’s eyes, especially once they themselves start to realise the similarities between it and their own situation.  These similarities are slightly more subtle at the start of the book, but by the time you get to the end the homages are very striking and cleverly tie into some of Nine Lives’ big moments.  These intriguing connections and clever recycling of story and writing elements from this iconic crime fiction novel worked really well in Nine Lives, and I felt that it complemented the rest of Swanson’s story perfectly, helping to turn it into a particularly great read.  Swanson also throws in some references and discussions about similar notable mystery novels at various parts of Nine Lives to throw the author around and to highlight his passion for the classics.  I love how the author takes the time to reference his personal favourites in his own works, and hardcore crime fiction fans and aficionados of classic murder mystery novels will no doubt have a blast seeing how Swanson utilises parts from a famous novel throughout Nine Lives.

I also loved the fantastic characters contained within Nine Lives, and Swanson achieves quite a lot with them.  Even though there are 10 or more point of view protagonists in a relatively short novel, Swanson ensures that each character stands out.  I felt that each protagonist was set up extremely well and they have their own quirks and back stories.  You swiftly get to know all the main characters as the book progresses, even with the quick changes between perspectives, and once you have made a good dent into the book, the reader finds themselves getting attached to several of them.  There are some great character arcs featured throughout the novel, and I liked how these distinctive characters came together and interacted.  The focus on FBI agent Jessica Winslow, herself a person on the list, works to set up the investigative angle of the novel, and her storyline goes in some very interesting directions.  I also quite enjoyed the intriguing storyline around Ethan Dart and Caroline Geddes, who meet because of the list and form a moving, if inevitably tragic, relationship.  The antagonist is also set up brilliantly throughout the novel and I found their motivations and methods to be expertly portrayed and explored as the narrative continues.  None of these characters are perfect or particularly have their life together, and it fascinating to see how a random list of names can change this for better, or more likely, for worse.  Swanson really does some great character work in Nine Lives, just don’t get too attached as your favourites may not survive.

Peter Swanson continues his entertaining and unique blend of crime fiction with the extremely clever and highly addictive Nine Lives.  Featuring a compelling, wide-ranging mystery and some brilliant references to classic murder mysteries, Nine Lives proves to be highly entertaining and memorable read, and I really had fun getting through it.  A great novel to fulfil all your murder mystery needs, Nine Lives comes highly recommended and will not disappoint.

WWW Wednesday – 11 May 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Esther’s Children by Caroline Beecham (Trade Paperback)

Esther's Children Cover

I just started this excellent historical drama by Australian author Caroline Beecham.  Set around World War II, Esther’s Children looks at a brave women who helps to rescue Jewish academics from Europe.  This is already proving to be an powerful read and I am curious to see where this tragic story ends up.

 

World of Warcraft: Sylvanas by Christie Golden (Audiobook)

World of Warcraft - Sylvanas Cover

I am still getting through this exceptional World of Warcraft audiobook by Christie Golden.  I love the brilliant story that Golden has set up around one of the franchise’s most compelling characters and I am really getting caught up in this fantastic and powerful narrative.  I will hopefully finish Sylvanas off in the next day or so and I look forward to seeing how Golden will wrap everything up.

What did you recently finish reading?

Nine Lives by Peter Swanson (Trade Paperback)

Nine Lives Cover

 

One Foot in the Fade by Luke Arnold (Trade Paperback)

One Foot in the Fade Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Wake by Shelley Burr

Wake Cover

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 4 May 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Nine Lives by Peter Swanson (Trade Paperback)

Nine Lives Cover

I have been having a bit of fun this week reading the fantastic crime fiction novel, Nine Lives by Peter Swanson, whose work I previously enjoyed on Rules for Perfect Murder.  This intriguing read sees nine strangers each receive a letter with nine names on it, including their own, and before long, the people on this list start getting killed off.  This is a really cool concept for a mystery and I cannot wait to see how it resolves.  I have already made some good progress on Nine Lives and should hopefully finish it off soon.

 

World of Warcraft: Sylvanas by Christie Golden (Audiobook)

World of Warcraft - Sylvanas Cover

I also just started listening to the new World of Warcraft novel, Sylvanas, by tie-in fiction author extraordinaire Christie Golden. This excellent novel follows the life of one of the games most complex characters, Sylvanas Windrunner, and shows how she went from respected hero to notorious villain.  Sure to be one of the better World of Warcraft tie-in novels, I am having a great time with this audiobook and will hopefully finish it off in the next week or so.

What did you recently finish reading?

Death of the Black Widow by James Patterson and J. D. Barker (Trade Paperback)

Death of the Black Widow Cover

 

The Hunger of the Gods by John Gwynne (Audiobook)

The Hunger of the Gods Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Wake by Shelley Burr

Wake Cover

 

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Book Haul – 11 March 2022

I have been having an absolutely fantastic couple of week for books, as I have been lucky enough to receive several incredible and amazing new novels from some of my local publishers.  As I am anticipating getting some more books in the near future, I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight some of the recent releases I have received before my new book pile got too big.  These novels include some truly awesome new releases, several of which I have been eagerly awaiting for some time.  I am extremely keen to read all of the books below and I cannot wait to check them out.

The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan

The Justice of Kings Cover

I was very happy to recently receive a copy of The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan, an epic sounding fantasy novel with an interesting legal edge to it.  This is one of my most anticipated fantasy books of the year, mainly because I have heard some amazing reviews about this book already.  I am hoping to read this one soon and I am anticipating an exceptional and impressive read.

 

Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham

Age of Ash Cover

I was pretty excited to receive Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham, a cool and massive fantasy novel that also has a ton of potential.  Written by one half of the team behind The Expanse novels (see my reviews for Tiamat’s Wrath and Leviathan Falls), this looks set to be an exciting and elaborate fantasy read and I look forward to exploring Abraham’s complex new world.

 

36 Streets by T. R. Napper

36 Streets Cover

One of the more unique novels I recently received was the brilliant cyberpunk thriller 36 Streets by Australian author T. R. Napper.  Set in a futuristic version of Hanoi, this exciting and compelling read follows a young gangster as she investigates a massive conspiracy.  I have actually already read this book and its pretty damn awesome and well worth checking out.  Review to follow soon.

 

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

The Kaiju Preservation Society Cover 2

I was so very, very happy to receive a copy of The Kaiju Preservation Society by bestselling author John Scalzi.  Following a group of humans who attempt to save a race of giant monsters in an alternate universe, I have been waiting a long time to read this fantastic and funny sounding book, especially after having so much fun with Scalzi’s previous novel Redshirts. I am hoping to trying to check this novel out very soon and I know I am going to love it.

 

Nine Lives by Peter Swanson

Nine Lives Cover

Another recent release I am hoping to get to soon is Nine Lives by the very clever Peter Swanson.  This cool thriller sounds really intriguing and I cannot wait to see how it’s captivating mystery turns out.  I loved Swanson’s last book, Rules for Perfect Murder, and I know I will have a great time with Nine Lives.

 

Black Drop by Leonora Nattrass

Black Drop Cover

An awesome and fascinating historical thriller that sees a British clerk trying to uncover a dangerous conspiracy while England fights against the French.

 

Daughters of Eve by Nina D. Campbell

Daughters of Eve Cover

An intense and incredible thriller that sees a detective try and take down a group of killers targeting abusive men.  I like the intriguing plot hook around this novel and I look forward to checking it out.

 

Brunswick Street Blues by Sally Bothroyd

Brunswick Street Blues Cover

An exciting Australian murder mystery debut set in Melbourne, I think this one will be a fantastic read and I look forward to checking out this new author.

 

The Game by Scott Kershaw

The Game Cover

An awesome sounding thriller that sees five strangers forced to play a mysterious game to save someone they love.  I know I’m pretty excited to check this one out and I cannot wait to see what chaos and intense games they are forced to play.

 

Lies My Memory Told Me by Sacha Wunsch

Lies My Memory Told Me Cover

An interesting new young adult science fiction thriller about memory, lies and secrets.

 

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah

The Stardust Thief Cover

One of the more compelling and distinctive fantasy releases of 2022, this captivating novel contains an fantastic sounding story inspired by One Thousand and One NightsThe Stardust Thief is already getting a lot of buzz around it and I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

 

Firefly: Carnival by Una McCormack

Firefly Carnival Cover

The final book in this post is Carnival, the latest entry in the cool series of the impressive Firefly novel series I have been enjoying recently.  This series has had some amazing reads, including Big Damn Hero, The Magnificent Nine, The Ghost Machine, Generations and Life Signs, and I cannot wait to see how the next adventure unfolds.  I am particularly excited to read a Firefly novel by bestselling author Una McCormack who has written some excellent Star Trek novels (The Way to the Stars and The Last Best Hope), and I am expecting this to be a really awesome read.

 

Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post.  As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in.  Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.