Nine Lives by Peter Swanson
Okay, so if you clicked by accident on this review without reading the full title, I warn you: this post is dedicated to spoiling the hell out of Nine Lives! If you are looking for a spoiler-free review, I just posted one: eARC Review: Nine Lives by Peter Swanson (NO SPOILERS)
I’m writing a full-on spoiler-y review after it got a very positive reaction on Twitter:
Lots of spoilers ahead!
I’m starting this spoiler review considering you (the reader of this post) already know the synopsis and my general thoughts on this book. If you don’t, please check out my non-spoiler review first (it’s quite short): eARC Review: Nine Lives by Peter Swanson (NO SPOILERS).
First of all, I was so annoyed by the sheer amount of references to And Then There Were None. I got that this was a retelling, but oh my god hearing about how the plots were similar and one of the detectives (Sam) wondering just HOW closely would the murderer follow the book’s plot… it was a bit much. In my opinion it made the murderer even more obvious. I don’t always right get who the murderer is, but in Nine Lives we literally don’t get introduced to other characters except these nine potential victims plus a couple detectives. I almost hoped it was one of the detectives, maybe Jessica’s partner, because otherwise it was quite obvious that Jack was the murderer.
The issue with having so many main characters is that you spend a long time in the book trying to tell them apart (in Nine Lives it takes somewhere from 10 to 20% of the book to get introduced to all of them) and then when you finally know them all and have a few favorites (of which it was quite obvious Jessica was supposed to be one), they kill one of my favorites storylines. I forget his name, but the one with the very jealous wife who kissed another woman. It had so much potential! I wanted to know why the wife was so jealous – was she a horrible person, was there a deep distrust because something happened, was it a mental health issue, why did he put up with it from the start? Where would this go, would he fall in love with the other woman, or would the kiss be a secret etc. Then he dies and his story is never to be heard of again. I was very upset.
At this point we’ve established Jessica as the cop who’s trying to connect the dots and catch the killer, we’re rooting for her and she’s clearly supposed to be The Main Character and… halfway through the book they kill her. Just like that. I hated it so much. I see how this could have been an interesting twist but the issue for me is that there were no other characters that in my opinion had the same presence as her – she was not only a potential victim and so very directly involved in all this, but strong, smart, and a FBI agent who had more possibility to get information than the others. So, because in a book like this we need to follow a character who tries to connect the dots, we started following again the detective who’s obsessed with And Then There Were None (Sam). It was not a good time. Sam had the personality of wet towel and always felt miles behind the killer, whereas Jessica was actually up to something.
The mystery goes on, and the reader doesn’t really get any relevant information until like, 70%-80% of the book. At this point I’m exhausted of all the killings and I just want to know how the murderer pulled off all these killings (which in my opinion did not get very well explained at all. “Being rich” is not a method!!!) AND what the goddamn motivation is. At this point it’s been hinted that maybe the people on the list are actually innocent and their deaths are more a revenge on the parents but like… we never really meet the parents much, we get NOTHING from them, not their reactions, not their regrets, confessions, nothing. So I’m pretty convinced this can’t be reason he’s murdering all these people, because that’s a stupid reason. No, that WAS all. Really. He wanted to take revenge on the parents by killing their children (exception is the first victim, who didn’t have a child). I was just not convinced. At all. The murderer kills himself in the end, leaves a letter explaining his motives, yada yada, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, the book is nearly over now, surely.
Jessica wakes up. Remember Jessica? Died 150 pages ago? Yeah. Her waking up in the end didn’t feel fair at all to me. We were not told she was in a coma, or that she was not dead dead, as far as I remember, so it was weird that on the epilogue she just wakes up a little disheveled and otherwise seems fine after getting shot on the head? It doesn’t seem like the kind of mistake Jack/Jonathan would make, and I don’t understand why he didn’t know this and take care of it. Sure I’m happy Jessica is alive but I had already mourned and buried her, gotten over my frustration at her death and all. I felt CHEATED. Frankly this was a cheap comeback.
All in all, I was enjoying the book in the beginning, mostly the first half, during which the book could have gone in so many different ways (I thought the And Then There Were None references were a red herring! Nope.), but just got more and more frustrated as the book went on.
Will I read other Peter Swanson books? Definitely. The writing was great, I think some of the ideas of the book were great, and I think it’s awesome that he goes a bit bonkers in his thrillers, they’re more fun this way, even if the choices are risky. I loved The Kind Worth Killing For. Just this one didn’t work for me at all. Given the high rating, I guess I’m in the minority here. I do have another three books by him on my list, though, and I’m excited to get to them!