Extract: Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson
Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is the witty whodunnit from Benjamin Stevenson. With a weaving plot and quick-witted writing, it will keep you guessing right until the final page!
Self-proclaimed crime novel expert Ern Cunningham was dreading his family reunion – and that was before the first murder even took place. After all, his family only really has one thing in common: they’ve all killed someone.
When they find that first body in the snow, it’s clear that only a Cunningham could have committed the crime – and it’s up to Ern to prove it…
Read on for the opening chapter of Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson!
Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone
Everyone in my family has killed someone. Some of us, the high achievers, have killed more than once.
I’m not trying to be dramatic, but it is the truth, and when I was faced with writing this down, difficult as it is with one hand, I realised that telling the truth was the only way to do it. It sounds obvious, but modern mystery novels forget that sometimes. They’ve become more about the tricks the author can deploy: what’s up their sleeve instead of what’s in their hand. Honesty is what sets apart what we call ‘Golden Age’ mysteries: the Christies, the Chestertons. I know this because I write books about how to write books. There are rules, is the thing. A bloke named Ronald Knox was part of the gang and wrote down a set once, though he called them his ‘Commandments’. They’re in the first part of this book in the epigraph that everyone always skips but, trust me, it’s worth going back to. Actually, you should dog-ear it. I won’t bore you with the details here but it boils down to this: the Golden Rule of the Golden Age is play fair.
Of course, this isn’t a novel. All of this happened to me. But I do, after all, wind up with a murder to solve. Several, actually. Though I’m getting ahead of myself.
The point is, I read a lot of crime novels. And I know most of these types of books have what’s known as an ‘unreliable narrator’ these days, where the person telling you the story is, in fact, lying most of the time. I also know that in recounting these events I may be typecast similarly. So I’ll strive to do the opposite. Call me a reliable narrator. Everything I tell you will be the truth, or, at least, the truth as I knew it to be at the time that I thought I knew it. Hold me to that.
This is all in keeping with Knox’s commandments 8 and 9, for I am both Watson and Detective in this book, where I play both writer and sleuth, and so am obligated to both light upon clues and not conceal my thoughts. In short: play fair.
Actually, I’ll prove it. If you’re just here for the gory details, deaths in this book either happen or are reported to have happened on page 14, page 46, page 65, a two-fer on page 75, and a hat-trick on page 81. Then there’s a bit of a stretch but it picks up again on page 174, page 208(ish), page 218, page 227, page 249, somewhere between page 243 and page 250 (it’s hard to tell), page 262, and page 355. I promise that’s the truth, unless the typesetter mucks with the pages. There is only one plot-hole you could drive a truck through. I tend to spoil things. There are no sex scenes.
My name would be useful, I suppose. I’m Ernest Cunningham. It’s a bit old-fashioned, so people call me Ern or Ernie. I should have started with that, but I promised to be reliable, not competent.
Considering what I’ve told you, it is tricky to know where to start. When I say everyone, let’s draw the line for that statement at my branch of the family tree. Although my cousin Amy did bring a prohibited peanut-butter sandwich to a corporate picnic once and her HR rep almost carked it, but I won’t put her on the bingo card.
Look, we’re not a family of psychopaths. Some of us are good, others are bad, and some just unfortunate. Which one am I? I haven’t figured that out yet. Of course, there’s also the little matter of a serial killer known as the Black Tongue who gets mixed up in all this, and $267,000 in cash, but we’ll get to that. I know you’re probably wondering something else right now. I did say everyone. And I promised no tricks.
Have I killed someone? Yes. I have.
Who was it?
Let’s get started.
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