A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah

Reviewed by Richard Goldman
Hardcover May 2016

For over ten years Sophie Hannah has been entertaining me and millions of crime readers with her carefully constructed puzzles of domestic suspense. Make that domestic crazy because Hannah's particular talent is to bring you right into the middle of the overheated brains of her characters where you find yourself looking around and saying, "That's a really bad decision" right around the time you say, "OK, that makes sense, let's try that".

The most notable feature of Hannah's work is that each book begins with a puzzling circumstance and A Game for All the Family is no exception as we find Justine Merrison, former TV producer and London resident, on her way to Devon with her husband and daughter to start a new life in a beautiful and historic home on the river Dart. Shortly after arriving she begins to receive a series of threatening calls from a complete stranger who thinks that Justine is some other person entirely. More disturbingly, her teenage daughter Ellen has become obsessed with a boy at school. When Ellen reports that her friend has been unfairly expelled Justine goes to the school to defend him only to be met with denial that such a boy was expelled or, indeed, had ever been at the school.

From this spooky beginning Hannah weaves a tangled tale of murder and revenge that will baffle you as you seek to untangle the true from the false. But if all Hannah had going on was a puzzling plot you'd quickly tire of the game and you won't in this book as she invests her characters with authentic feelings as they struggle to make sense of their lives. Justine has a past that led to her fleeing her profession and her life in London. Ellen has her own issues as she falls deeper into the narrative of her friend George and his strange family.

An altogether satisfying psychological thriller that will keep you entertained while giving you some food for thought about the ways that people and families struggle to understand their histories.