Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone (Ernest Cunningham #1), by Benjamin Stevenson

Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone” by Benjamin Stevenson is a novel that, much like an overwrought comedian who never quite finds his audience, fails to strike the right chord with me. It promises a thrilling blend of mystery and dark humour but ultimately falls flat in both realms.

From the outset, Stevenson’s attempts to break the fourth wall are incessant and intrusive. The protagonist, Ernest, a novelist writing his own story, constantly reminds us of his authorial presence. This technique, rather than being clever or engaging, becomes a regular source of annoyance. For instance, at one point, he states:

»I’ll hold it here to mention that I know some authors are incapable of having a woman throw up without it being a clue to a pregnancy. These same authors seem to think nausea is the only indication of childbearing, not to mention their belief that vomit shoots out the woman’s mouth within hours of plot-convenient fertilization. By some authors, I mean male ones. Far be it from me to tell you which clues to pay close attention to, but Sofia’s not pregnant, okay? She’s allowed to throw up of her own volition.«

The author tries too hard to be funny, and the humour rarely lands. Ernest’s self-aware commentary and sardonic wit are overplayed and fail to elicit the intended amusement.

The book’s primary claim to fame is its meta-narrative approach — a novelist writing his tale while being a character within it — but this ends up being a double-edged sword. While it might appeal to those who enjoy a postmodern twist, it did not work for me at all. The narrative remains disappointingly flat, with frequent self-reflections that add little to the story’s depth or allure. Ernest’s humour, rather than endearing, feels forced and sleazy, like a jaded comedian overstaying his welcome at the microphone.

»I have to be aware that you’re aware I’m writing this all down, is what I’m trying to say.«

Stevenson’s style largely fails to capture the spirit of the classic “Golden Age of Mystery” stories he so evidently seeks to emulate. The mystery itself drags aimlessly, with the plot unravelling at a snail’s pace. One of the most telling examples of this tedious pacing can be found in the way crucial revelations are handled: The “big reveal” scene in the library of all places significantly lacks the flair of great detectives like Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. Instead, it feels anticlimactic, leaving me yearning for the sharp wit and keen intellect of those classic sleuths.

The second half of the book does pick up somewhat in terms of plot movement, but by then, the damage has been done. The long-winded setup means that what should be thrilling climactic moments feel disjointed and lacklustre. Even the most intriguing parts of the mystery fail to compensate for the overall tedium.

Ultimately, I found the novel’s attempt to blend humour and mystery underwhelming. The story lacks the urgency and tension that make a great mystery compelling, and the humour comes across as lacklustre rather than engaging.

As much as this novel tried to wrap itself in the veneer of old-world charm and intellectual wit, it ultimately felt lazy and unconvincing. I’ll be returning to more engaging and less self-indulgent reads.

Two out of five stars.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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