Book Review of “Murder Times Nine” by J.F. Pratt


Murder Times Nine is a detective Sudoku puzzle mystery set in present day Reno. When a young woman’s strangled body is discovered among the willows on the banks of the Truckee river, the autopsy reveals a Sudoku puzzle grid branded onto her. Within the grid, nine numbers are filled in. When a second victim is found knifed through the chest with a Sudoku puzzle grid tucked neatly in his breast pocket with nine additional numbers, Detective Charles Lee fears a serial killer is stalking his city. The vengeful and brilliant killer leaves only a single clue at each of the murders. That clue is a Sudoku puzzle devised to taunt and tease the detective. The murderer adds nine numbers to the puzzle left on the most recent victim’s corpse. The numbers are a code that identifies the next victim. Using antique and unusual weapons for each of the murders heightens the grisly killings. The bodies keep piling up as the murderer leaves an increasingly more complete puzzle on the latest victim. Detective Lee knows he is running out of time. He must unravel how these sets of nine numbers target the next victim. Can he determine who will be the next victim before another dead body is found? Only then, will he be able to stop the killer before the puzzle is complete and the killer vanishes. Fast paced action throughout. In the early chapters, a discerning and analytical reader can decode the killer’s added numbers by a careful reading of the chapter describing the next victim. No math skills required!


Genre: Murder / Detective / Mystery / Thriller / Police Detective / Serial Killer  / Suspense
My Review:

There are some murder mysteries which do not have a great story line but an interesting narration which makes the reading a pleasurable experience. And there are some with a wonderful story line but a narration that murders the story. Murder Times Nine falls in the latter category.

Right from the start of the novel, the reader is considered to be a child or an old person with a terrible memory. There are so many explanation, sometimes even repeated. Every thought by the characters are done out loud. Every process is explained in way too much detail than required every time it happens. Needless attention to details of every situation made the narration too boring to follow. Over explanations like “why is the killer so sick” and “going to puke in private” are used, which literally kills the mood. Every single character entered the book with a 5 page biography for themselves. This created so much confusion as to who is really important and who is not. Unrealistic ideologies like police being completely dependent on children to solve the murders makes the story line so weak that if the crime wasn’t perfect, it would have been a torture to read the entire book.

The only thing that kept me on the book was the actual suspense. “Who did it and why” was amazing. With a completely different narration style, this book would have rocked. The concept was splendid, the mystery left me spell-bound, the last line of the novel was so chilling that I ended the book with goose bumps. But the narration killed the story completely. The way the writer linked Sudoku to killing was just brilliant. If not for the wonderful story, I would have stopped reading right after the first 5 pages.

Murder Times Nine is a murder mystery novel with a very interesting blurb and a wonderful story line but not a good enough narration flow to match.

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