The only way I can really describe the debut novel by Reece Goodall is that it’s unbelievably frustrating in the best way possible. It’s like playing a game of Cluedo where some of the cards are stuck under the board.
It follows Professor Charles Rycroft, a Mathematics professor who is skilled at solving puzzles. He lends these skills to the police department to help solve the murder of Peter Callaghan, who has gone on the run after feeding tips about his employer, Jerry Armstrong, to the police. Armstrong offers millions of pounds as a reward for whoever kills Callaghan and, three days later, he shows up dead in a small seaside town.
Three people confess to Callaghan’s murder: Mrs Danvers, the little B&B owner; Sarah Watson, a student from London; Herr Mueller, a watch salesman who travels for work.
From the first page, Goodall layers levels of tension, creating immediate intrigue
The crime is a locked-box mystery, where the room in which the murder takes place is locked and so none of the three who have confessed could possibly have done it. This is what I mean when I compare it to an incomplete game of Cluedo. Professor Rycroft has so many ‘guilty’ suspects (although only one location and one weapon), but it’s seemingly impossible for any of them to have actually committed the crime.
From the first page, Goodall layers levels of tension, creating immediate intrigue. He throws the reader straight into the Callaghan mystery without immediately being right in the centre, instead watching updates on the news. It questions who the narrator is in relation to the story and why he’s so interested in this case.
The narration is very clear and direct and you can distinctly hear Goodall’s underlying, strong voice, with the narrator constantly asking the reader questions. It gets the reader involved in the mystery, looking for small clues to see if they can figure out the tricky case themselves.
Besides, if it had been Mrs Danvers, the further 150 pages wouldn’t have been necessary
The suspects themselves, especially Mrs Danvers, are very convincing regarding their stories with regard to how they did it and why. With every single one of their stories, I was almost convinced it must be them until Goodall pointed out why their story didn’t add up. Besides, if it had been Mrs Danvers, the further 150 pages wouldn’t have been necessary. It’s quite different to usual crime novels, as whilst most detectives would be trying to convince readers and characters alike that the suspect did do it, it felt like Goodall’s detective is focused on proving who didn’t do it.
In the final chapters, Rycroft details everything that happened in the investigation which was quite confusing. He throws so many theories out there in such a short space of time that I could barely keep up which one was his final theory, or the truth.
As soon as I had a theory, Goodall was one step ahead to disprove it
I found myself getting frustrated as Rycroft says that he knows who did it but goes back to his first theory which was immediately disproven. This then moves on to a different theory and I wasn’t sure which one the detective was actually putting forward as the truth. While I usually figure out who did it early on in crime novels, with this one I had no idea. I spent most of the book just as confused as Professor Rycroft. As soon as I had a theory, Goodall was one step ahead to disprove it. I did eventually figure out who the real murderer was, but only mere pages before Rycroft does. As a result, watching him finally come to the true conclusion was a really satisfying moment.
I imagine that the actual solution would be quite impossible to figure out for yourself unless you’d gone through and read the ending first. There seems to be no inclination of who the true murderer is and the details are so subtle that it’s easy for them to pass you by until they crop up again, shedding light on the truth.
Unbelievably frustrating but in the best way possible, Goodall’s novel keeps you guessing until the very end and is a different experience to the usual crime novel with a satisfying moment of conclusion for readers to enjoy.