All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford (Alibi, July 2016) is a mystery within a mystery. The characters are complex, fully-developed, because Pen Sheppard is a keen observer and notices details most people don’t. Frank, Pen’s psychiatrist, even comments on Pen’s keen skills of observation as she relates her story.
Pen is a first-year University law student, away from home for the first time. Her classmates play a game they call “The Murder Game”. The object of the game is to mock-kill each your classmates when they least expect it. Pen’s friend Rachel boasts she has more kills than anyone else. Rachel loves to stab or shoot people in the back.
Then students start dying for real, allegedly attacked by “The Screwdriver Man”. Is there a serial killer stalking campus? When Rachel dies from drowning and other students die from drug overdoses, Pen becomes a prime suspect.
None of the people in this novel are nice, nor is anyone who she or he pretends to be. Everyone seems to be hiding something. Whether or not they are all guilty of murder is irrelevant. No one is completely innocent.
All These Perfect Strangers is a complicated story of relationships gone wrong. Recommended for readers who like to sort through all the chaff to find overlooked grains of truth. Worth a read.