A guest review by Jenre
Someone is playing games in the wealthy suburbs of Miami, using the people of Coral Gables as their chess pieces and murder as their checkmate. When Reggie Bainbridge, the owner and director of The Country Club of Coral Gables, dies unexpectedly, his sons are left to deal with the aftermath: the daily operation of the Club and an unwelcome police investigation into his death. When the brothers realize that someone will be going down for old Reggie’s murder, they find themselves playing the game, wondering who to trust and trying to stay out of danger, even if it means playing the game to the end.
This clever little mystery certainly kept me guessing, but I found that the characterisation was sacrificed a little in favour of trickery and plot diversions.
The novella begins with a funeral. The deceased being the father of Brayden Bainbridge and Addison (Sonny) Satterwight who died of acute kidney failure brought on by excess of drinking. However, all is not as it seems and soon the police are knocking on the door of the exclusive country club now owned and run by the brothers. It seems that Reginald Bainbridge did not die of alcohol consumption, but rather a lethal dose of anti-freeze which had been placed in his drink. The two brothers are astounded and help the police as much as they can. The two detectives, Morgan and Walker, then set out to discover who exactly would want Reginald Bainbridge dead.
I said at the start that this is a clever mystery and it was. The police and the reader are led up and down the garden path until the startling revelations at the end. It was almost impossible to work out the clues so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. Mystery fans will not be disappointed.
The book is written in the 3rd person omniscient so we don’t ever get the thoughts of the characters, only their actions, gestures and facial expressions. This had two effects: Firstly we never know whether anyone is telling the truth, or if they are trying to hide something and, secondly, it produced a distance between me, the reader, and the characters. As a result, I felt separated from any emotions that the characters might feel and never really felt that I got to grips with any of them. I know that this was a deliberate act on the part of the author as the whole mystery would fall apart were we to know any of the internal thoughts of any of the characters, but I did then feel more of an observer to the book rather than a participant. The whole feeling was as though I was watching a well crafted play being performed and the constant references to chess linked to that idea. Each character had a role to play in the drama and were moved around on the ‘stage’ or ‘chessboard’ accordingly.
This separation between myself and any emotion in the characters meant that the sub-plot of the romance between Addison and his lover Micah fell flat. They acted for most of the book like f**k buddies rather than two men in love. Although there were a few hints and clues that they may have been more to each other than that, the main interaction between the pair was sex and so I was rather surprised when it turned out to be more than just ‘friends with benefits’. I actually didn’t really like Addison very much either. It would be difficult to go into much detail as to why without giving away too many spoilers, but he was far too smug and clever for his own good and I didn’t like the way he took advantage of nearly everyone and every situation in the book.
Despite the lack of connection between myself and the characters, I would still recommend My Brother’s Keeper. I greatly enjoyed watching the mystery unfold and felt a lot of sympathy for the two police officers as they battled against polite obstruction from the brothers in their quest for the truth. This was a great short read which I would recommend to those who enjoy a good mystery.