Jemma, Matt and a group of life-long friends are invited back to Polskirrin exactly one year after a tragedy that they witnessed leave the owner of Polskirrin, Lucas Jarrett, changed for life. Jemma finds it odd that Lucas is trying to recreate every detail of the night but the others invited think he is just working out his trauma but is there is something that doesn't add up and someone knows more than they're letting on...
Abbott creates an isolated atmosphere that from the beginning of the novel that perfectly matched the writing tone and throws the reader straight into the book. By switching back and forth between the past and present narrative this isolated feeling is maintained and at key moments the suspense is drawn out just enough to keep the reader on their toes. The 'game' itself starts off extremely creepy and tense as we mostly view the book from Jemma's point of view who we quickly realise hasn't been kept entwined with the secrets between the others.
As a character Jemma was definitely the head strong female that mystery novels need, not taking the half-hearted excuses for that the guests give her for secrecy and defending her actions when questions, except, when it comes to her husband Matt. I was annoyed to see her change into this drivelling wimp when it came to him especially when she was such a strong character around the other main players. Her attempts to find out what he is hiding are batted down by him immediately and she just accepts it, the continuity of her attributes bothered me and a lot of scenes became difficult to slug through because of it.
'The Murder Game' is one of those books that leads you down several different paths that mean you are unsure what the answer to the mystery could be and even with all the hints you will still be shocked. The twist ending was a complete surprise for me and as a regular reader of psychological thrillers that was a treat. However, the ending itself was left open without a solid conclusion and for me that meant the build-up of tension was wasted on a sub-par ending.
I wanted to love this, the idea of Jarrett recreating that day from a year ago just to get to the bottom of his trauma had all the key elements of a great novel, but unfortunately it fell flat and I was ultimately disappointed. I would still recommend a read of it, it's quick and full of nearly-well-rounded characters and the writing is great.