When I hear about an edgy thriller that is receiving raves from some of the best in the genre, my interest is immediately peaked. That was case with “Eeny Meeny” by M.J. Arlidge. I saw a couple blurbs by some of my favorite thriller writers along with a description of the story that made it seem like a perfect fit for my reading preferences so I jumped right in.
Two people are abducted and left with no means of escape, a loaded pistol, and an ultimatum: if you want to live, you must kill the other person. Two people in a trap and only one is left to leave alive. One will be dead and the other will be left to deal with the consequences of the choice made for survival for the rest of that person’s life. It is a sick and twisted game that the abductor seems intent on replaying over and over again. Helen Grace has never seen anything like it before and, after interviewing the survivors, she is unable to determine whether it is better to die than to live with a life of guilt. She also knows that she may be the only person that can stop this from happening again.
The abductions seem completely random and Grace has little luck in even beginning to find the killer. As the pressure mounts to end the string of abductions/murders, she finds herself not only trying to solve the crime but also contending with the media as well as a possible leak within her department that is hindering the investigation. There is finally a crack in the case and Grace comes to the realization that the murders are all linked to her. What she can do to stop them when she finds herself at the center of the murders, however, is another story altogether and Grace comes to realize that she may be too late to put an end to the killing spree before it gets to close for comfort or safety.
It almost seems at times as if the main purpose of “Eeny Meeny” is to introduce new character Helen Grace and it achieves this purpose admirably. Grace is an interesting character and seems to be a strong character to grow a series around. She fits the mold of a thriller lead in every aspect and there is room for her character to grow. She provides a solid focal point for the story to grow around and there is plenty to suggest that she has a solid backstory that can be revealed through the course of the series. “Eeny Meeny” does a good job of kicking off the series and providing it with a starting point that Arlidge will be able to build a long-standing series upon.
The actual story in “Eeny Meeny,” however, did not impress me. It was a relatively average thriller and I felt a little disappointed since it had been hyped as more. The concept of the story, a murderer setting up deadly games and forcing his victims to do the killing for him, is not a new concept at all but one that has been done multiple times in other stories. Instead of being new and edgy, the concept was just a rehash of other stories and was not done as well as some of them. The book does rocket along as it is filled with bite-sized chapters and it does provide entertainment but not much more than that. The story gets repetitive at times as essentially the same setup is used by the murderer (and described by the author) but I still enjoyed the novel. There are definitely some rough edges to smooth out but “Eeny Meeny” was still a fast read for entertainment that does not require much thinking. I would definitely try the next book in the series and hope that Arlidge is able to smooth out the rough edges that kept this novel from being more than it is.
I would like to thank Penguin Group and NetGalley for this review copy. “Eeny Meeny” is available now.