Lily’s aunt and adopted mother, Liliana, has died. Lily and her four cousins and their two spouses must play a game to win her luscious country estate/hotel. A snowstorm traps everyone inside the mansion with no way to communicate with the outside world. Twelve days of puzzles. Twelve days of clues. Plus, plenty of murders along the way. Who is willing to do anything to win The Christmas Murder Game?
Each day there is a new puzzle. Each puzzle gives hints as to where keys to a secret room containing the property’s title are hidden. Most of the puzzles are anagrams. While some are solvable by the reader, many are not. Fortunately, there are larger puzzles to solve for both Lily and the reader. Was Lily’s mother’s death a decade ago really a suicide? Was Liliana’s recent death just a fatal asthma attack or something more sinister? What really happened to Lily’s Uncle Edward? And, of course, who is killing everyone at the Christmas party?
I absolutely adore the premise of this book. However, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The characters feel like more like stereotypes than genuine people that the reader should care about. The happy lesbian couple, the pun-filled middle-aged dad, the nagging wife, and the selfish witch are all present and accounted for. Even Lily’s backstory is only vaguely defined. The daily puzzles seem too difficult to be a fun game for the reader. However, guessing who the perpetrator of the four larger puzzles was much too easy. Lily also had me screaming mentally at her stupidity. Running after a murderer with no weapon in hand is just dumb, plain and simple.
While The Christmas Murder Game was overall a disappointment, I still admire the idea. Hopefully, a production company will purchase it, edit it, and make it into a great movie someday. 3 stars.
Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for a digital review copy of the book.