Party for seven - but which one is the murderer?
If you're a fan of Agatha Christie, you'll thoroughly enjoy I Confess, the new psychological thriller from Irish crime author Alex Barclay.
The plot, which has echoes of Christie's And Then There Were None, focuses on a group of seven friends reunited for one night at a luxurious hotel on a remote peninsula on the west coast of Ireland.
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The venue has just been renovated by two of the group - married couple Edie and Johnny - and they want to celebrate their new business venture by getting the old gang back together for a night of dinner, wine and conversation.
On the surface, all seven are delighted to be enjoying each other's company again, but as the night continues and a raging storm builds outside, fractures in the various relationships begin to emerge.
When a body is discovered, the friends face the shocking realisation that a killer is among them.
But why would one of them want to turn to murder?
Not surprisingly the answer lies in the past, and to fill us in on the backstory of each character, Barclay (below) cleverly transports us to their childhood and teenage years, via alternating chapters, so we get a clear picture of their seemingly innocent upbringing in a small Irish coastal town where everyone knows everyone else's business and memories are very long.
We also learn all about the devastating events that marred each of their young lives and observe the strong grip the Catholic Church had on the local congregation in the 1980s.
We slowly build a picture of each character, how their lives have led them to this point and why one of them has become a murderer.
This is Barclay's ninth novel, and she delivers an intricate superbly paced plot, evoking a menacing undertone that starts on the first page and doesn't let up until the very last sentence.
Her ear for dialogue is also excellent, particularly with the character Murph, who drops nuggets of verbal gold every time he opens his mouth. I Confess demonstrates just how much the past can influence the present, and will leave you wondering if you ever really know your friends.
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