Nine Lives
October 5, 2021

Book Review

Nine Lives

reviewed by Sandra Hoover

Nine names. Nine random people living all over the country working in vastly different fields from an oncologist nurse to an FBI agent. What do they have in common? They all received an envelope with a single sheet of paper bearing nine names – including their own.

What does it mean? A joke? A mistake? Some trash it without a second thought. Others lay it aside to think about later. FBI agent Jessica Winslow has an inclination that it’s bad news and starts a search to identify the other people listed while seeking answers, looking for connections between herself and anyone on the list and finding none. When she hears reports of a man drowned on a beach whose head was held down in a pool of water and his identity matches a name from the list, the agent’s gut feeling is confirmed . . . she’s in possession of a kill list with her own name on it. When a second and then third person are murdered, Agent Winslow is pulled from the case and put under police protection as are the other identified people on the list while authorities frantically search for the unknown people to inform them their lives are in danger. The race is on to figure out what connects these people and why someone would want them all dead. Meantime, everyone is looking over their shoulder wondering which one of them will be next?

Peter Swanson renders a complex murder mystery in Nine Lives and challenges readers to solve it. Alternating chapters with multiple points of view exposes the internal turmoil occurring in each of the listed nine people’s lives. One can easily deduce that all is not as it appears, secrets are being kept and information withheld. And the elusive thread that connects these people one to the other as well as to a murderer remains just out of grasp. Chapters count down from nine to none, lending a sense of urgency to the story as each lower number means another victim. First there are nine . . . until finally there are none. Are you getting vibes of Agatha Christies’ And Then There Were None? I did.

Swanson’s unique, clean writing style proves to be the perfect tool for delivering Nine Lives in a highly effective, look over your shoulder kind of way. Short chapters deliver the details with a mysterious, eerie tone of impending doom, pulling readers into each of these people’s lives – just in time to snuff them out. No one is safe – police protection or not. The rapidly escalating pace is like a time bomb seconds from blowing – time growing ever shorter as the chapters and lives dwindle down. I found the delivery of this highly atmospheric story to be brilliant as it really puts solving the mystery in readers’ hands. We know what’s in each person’s head, but we don’t know the identity of the villain . . . and neither do authorities. As the list grew shorter, I had an inkling of what was going on and yet, the insane twist right at the end knocked me for a loop. Readers who love to dive deep into a mystery and work the clues with the clock ticking will devour Nine Lives. Highly recommended.

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