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Six Mysteries Featuring Large Casts of Characters


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I’ve always avoided writing a book with multiple characters, as I worried about keeping up with the various personalities and timelines it would incur. In fact, I initially pitched The Guilt Trip as a holiday gone wrong between two couples. To which my publishers said, ‘We love it, but how about throwing in a few more people to really mix it up?’ The mere thought induced a cold sweat, yet as soon as I started writing, I quickly realized that the additional cast members gave me more freedom and flexibility within the plot, moving the story forward at a pace that may not have happened with just my original ensemble.

Even more surprising was that my six characters naturally came to life on the page, each distinguishing themselves from the next with their idiosyncrasies. I guess that’s the biggest challenge when you have a large cast; you have to separate them by their strengths and weaknesses; fortitude and foibles. Otherwise readers will struggle to connect, unable to remember who’s married to whom, which characters share a troubled history, and which might want to kill each other.

You won’t have any such difficulties with these books, in which multiple characters all play a vital part…

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Hostage by Clare Mackintosh

In this locked room thriller set on a plane during its inaugural flight from London to Sydney, the business class cabin is full of characters who are all looking to escape for one reason or another. But would they go so far as wanting to bring the Boeing 777 down as their way out? With each passenger cleverly identified by seat number only, it’s down to Mina, the flight attendant, to identify which of the passengers is giving her the impossible ultimatum of saving either the 353 people on board or her five-year-old daughter, left in the seemingly safe hands of her estranged husband.

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The Holiday by T. M. Logan

To celebrate her fortieth birthday, Kate, her three friends, and their families head to a luxurious villa in the South of France. They’ve all known each other since forever, so it should be a glorious week of fun in the sun. But trouble is afoot from the outset, when Kate begins to suspect that her husband is having an affair and that his mistress is on holiday with them. Though which of Kate’s best friends is it? And what will she do to keep her identity hidden?

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They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall

Another mystery set in paradise, but this time there’s no escape for the seven guests who have all been invited for a very specific reason: to repent their sins. Paying homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, this is a modern take on the old classic, and as each of the characters meets their demise, you’re left wondering who’s next and who’s behind it. Miriam Macy, the unreliable narrator, makes it her business to find out, but will she be able to do so before she too finds herself face-to-face with the killer?

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One by One by Ruth Ware

You’ll need your wits about you as this troupe of associates descend on a ski chalet in the French Alps, hosted by protagonist Erin. Tensions are evident as soon as they arrive, but the suspense ratchets up when an avalanche comes in and one of the guests goes missing. The resort loses power, wi-fi and phone signal, ploughing the remaining characters into darkness, with no way of calling for help. It gives the killer the perfect opportunity to start picking their victims off ‘one by one’ in this atmospheric whodunnit.

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The Guest List by Lucy Foley

The wedding of golden celebrity couple Jules and Will promises to be the event of the year. But as the guests begin to congregate on a remote island in the North Atlantic ocean, simmering resentments abound. From the unstable hot mess of a bridesmaid, to the bullying antics of the ushers, the past history of the flawed characters is slowly revealed, providing motives-a-plenty for the deadly deed when it eventually happens. But will you be able to sniff out the red herrings and beat the author to the climatic conclusion?

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Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The clue is very much in the title of this one as nine strangers descend onto Tranquillum House for a ten day retreat to recharge and cleanse themselves of all the baggage they’ve inadvertently acquired along the way of this thing call life. When Masha, the director greets the guests with the words, ‘This is a health resort, not a prison,’ Frances, a romantic novelist, knows that she’s in for a lot more than she bargained for. Hang on tight because as we get to know the other guests, all is not at it seems and the craziness begins.

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Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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