Title: A Party to Murder
Author: John Inman
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: March 26, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Murder Mystery
Page Count: 214 Pages
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
When Jamie Roma and Derek Lee find their blossoming love affair interrupted by dual invitations to a house party from a mysterious unnamed host, they think, Sounds like fun. The next thing they know they are caught up in a game of cat and mouse that quickly starts racking up a lot of dead mice. *Yikes,* they think. *Not so fun.*
Trapped inside a spooky old house in the middle of nowhere, with the body count rising among their fellow guests, they begin to wonder if they’ll escape with their lives. As a cataclysmic storm swoops in to batter the survivors, the horror mounts.
Oddly enough, even in the midst of murder and mayhem, Jamie and Derek’s love continues to thrive.
While the guest list thins, so does the list of suspects. Soon it’s only them and the killer.
And then the battle really begins.
I’m sure this reviewer is not the first and certainly won’t be the last to draw parallels between this book and Agatha Christie’s ‘And then there were none’. Seven characters invited to a remote location are subject to systematic elimination by an unknown assailant. The story is told from the perspective of the two central characters and since the reader can see into their minds, they are largely eliminated from the list of potential suspects. Positive and negative aspects of gay life are used as hooks for the plot, but the link between the characters and the murderer and the rationale behind what happens is kept well hidden.
Two of the author’s strengths are in characterisation and storytelling. The difficulty with providing a re-conceptualisation of a familiar story is that the reader expects what is going to happen even if the details are unclear. Similarly, characterisation is kept vague so that the real identity of the killer is kept obscure. Consequently, the author focuses on the central characters and their relationship as a counterpoint to the vagueness elsewhere. Nature and the elements provide a useful context to the story, as the weather has as much impact on the actions of the group as any of the individuals. For the sense of foreboding to grow, it is necessary to isolate this group from salvation.
As a whodunit, clues are introduced alongside red herrings and misdirection and the reader is encouraged, along with the characters, to place and change allegiances with characters throughout, as their personalities are revealed by circumstances. Death is revealed after the event, but the nature of that death is described in detail. Alongside this is described the consolidation of the relationship of the central characters. As such, there is a disjoint between impending death and a sense that life goes on even in the most adverse conditions. That either rings true to the reader or doesn’t seem quite right.
Sex is described and implied throughout, but in both cases, it is not a central theme. It is there as a component of the story and as such is effectively described. There are character differences between the two central individuals but largely they are of similar mind and so it can be easy to get mixed up as to who is speaking/thinking. Conversely, the secondary characters are starkly different from one another, in fact, somewhat caricatured with their loyalties shifting all the time. This makes the central couple very different from those around them.
The pace of the story is quite fast with lots going on. However, there are lulls between the periods of action. These are used to get to know the characters or to develop the central relationship. As the concept of the book is not unique, it cannot be described as gripping, but there is plenty to hold the reader’s interest throughout.
At the end of the book, the killer is revealed. Who it is was not that difficult to figure out, but the rationale for the killings is quite neatly described.