Cara Hunter | Murder in the Family

The Book:

Murder in the Family by Cara Hunter
Published: Expected September 19, 2023 by William Morrow Paperbacks

Torrie’s Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Plot (Goodreads):

A shocking thriller about a cold case, a fictional true crime series, and the family caught in the middle.

SIX EPISODES. ONE KILLER.

It was a case that gripped the nation. In December 2003, Luke Ryder, the stepfather of acclaimed filmmaker Guy Howard (then aged 10), was found dead in the garden of their suburban family home.

Luke Ryder’s murder has never been solved. Guy Howard’s mother and two half-sisters were in the house at the time of the murder–but all swear they saw nothing. Despite a high-profile police investigation and endless media attention, no suspect was ever charged.

But some murder cases are simply too big to forget…

Now comes the sensational new Netflix series Infamous, dedicated to investigating–and perhaps cracking–this famous cold case. The production team will re-examine testimony, re-interview witnesses, and once again scour the evidence. The family will speak. The key players will be reunited–on camera. The truth will come out.

Are you ready to see it?

How did Murder in the Family end?

Click here for book spoilers for Murder in the Family
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read Murder in the Family, I suggest you turn back now.

The first twist was that the man who was murdered, believed to be Luke Ryder is not actually Luke Ryder (referred to as Fake-Luke moving forward). The man that married Caroline and became Guy’s step-father was actually a serial conman who had changed his identity multiple times. Fake-Luke was actually from Canada, and had faked his death as a teenager when he was caught having an affair with a local man’s wife.

Real Luke Ryder is believed to have killed someone in a hit and run in Australia in his early 20s, and he left to avoid detection. In Beirut real-Luke is killed in a bus bombing, which is when fake-Luke steals his identity.

Mid-book, we find out that Nick (The Producer of the TV Show) picked most of the experts due to their connection to the case. We find out the following:

Alan Carrick – His sister was swindled by the fake “Luke Ryder” before fake-Luke marries Caroline.

Mitchell Clarke – Was arrested and interrogated by police the night of the murder as he was at the crime scene. He was there because he was dating Maura (who was 15 to his 21).

Hugo Fraser – He was having an affair with Caroline at the time of the murder. It is suggested that Hugo was the man Caroline dated as a teenager and was the father of her baby that she likely gave up for adoption. It isn’t clear if this is true.

Laila Furness – Her connection is just a coincidence. She shares her maiden name with the hit and run victim in Australia, and her brother was killed in a hit and run accident, but is not the same person.

JJ Norton – He is briefly believed to be the long-lost son of Caroline that was adopted. He is adamant that it is not him, and it seems we are supposed to believe that.

Bill Serafini – Bill had already been working on a case regarding fake-Luke, specifically one of his crimes from much earlier in his life. He had already figured out many of the fake identities prior to the show, but revealed this information as if it was new during the course of the show.

Ultimately, we find out that Ian Wilson confronted fake-Luke the night of his murder regarding the inheritance that fake-Luke was in line for (and which was Ian’s before fake-Luke showed up in the UK). Ian was the mystery phone call from King’s Cross. During their heated argument, fake-Luke accidentally falls down the stairs. Ian runs away afraid.

Soon after, Amelie comes home early from the movie and sees 10-year old Guy covered in blood and standing over the body. She cleans Guy up and puts him back to bed. Maura returns home from her secret date with Mitchell, and sees Amelie cleaning up blood and using the washing machine. When Maura finds the body, she assumes Amelie was the murderer and she covers for Amelie. For 20 years, she believes her sister was the killer.

The psychologist on the show (Laila) believes that Guy disassociated because seeing fake-Luke fall triggered him due to watching his father die of a heart attack. Guy had a history of blackouts during traumatic events, and he had no memory of killing fake-Luke. Luke dies soon after the revelation and it is ruled a suicide.

The book ends with a news article that mentions a red-headed nurse in Guy’s home right before he died. This is supposed to lead us to believe it was fake-Luke’s sister killing Guy for revenge.

Torrie’s Review:

Many thanks to Cara Hunter, HarperCollins, and William Morrow Books for gifting me this book – this has not affected my review in any way. This book gets a lot of props from me for trying something new. It is told entirely as scripts for the TV show, text messages, voicemails, reddit posts, and news articles. This was unique and honestly made me really want to watch a TV version of the book. That being said, I found this formatting challenging to get into, and it made it really difficult to keep all the characters straight. It was helpful that each character had a profile at the beginning of the book, but it was annoying to constantly flip back and forth. Unfortunately, this unique format forced the book to tell, not show. And that is a HUGE negative for me. I want to figure out the clues, not have them laid out for me in detail. The first twist was pretty obvious.

While I can’t say I exactly guessed the ending, I had a general feeling as to what kind of character might be the murderer. The book really tried to throw me off, and I enjoyed the twists and turns, but ultimately, it left something to be desired. The beginning of the book was challenging to get into, but I did enjoy it more by the end, once I was more used to the formatting and had a better memory of the many characters.

On the very first page, a news article reviewing the show after its release compares the TV Show to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, this made me expect characters to start dropping like flies. I think this gave me a false expectation for the book, and while I think it was a good choice to not murder everyone involved, it did leave me confused and waiting for something that never came.

The best part of this book was the TV series angle – it was fascinating, and I really liked when we learned some of the behind the scenes information as well as when Nick’s twist was dropped.

I was willing to suspend reality for the TV show angle and related twists, but I struggled to suspend reality for the ending and some other aspects. What started as realistic got too close to far-fetched for me.

Unfortunately, this book had so many loose ends that were never wrapped up and it just left the book feeling unfinished.

Here's a list of loose ends that I feel got no final explanation (spoilers included):
Spoilers

  • Was Bill, the NYPD officer in London for that conference on the date of the murder? If he wasn’t involved in the murder, why did he lie about attending?
  • The experts’ comment on the fact that Caroline is the first woman fake-Luke married, and he didn’t seem to be conning her, was he really in love with her? This is never brought full circle.
  • Who is Caroline’s baby that was likely adopted? Was Hugo the father? Was JJ the child?
  • How did fake-Luke learn real Luke’s history and find the grandmother? He had little to no information on real-Luke’s life after the bombing, how could he possibly have learned about the grandmother?
  • Was Guy really murdered by fake-Luke’s sister? Honestly, I would have preferred a suicide, this was unnecessary.

If you’re looking for something unique and different, this is a good book to change up how mysteries and thrillers are written. But if you’re looking for a book that has a clean storyline and resolution, you may find that it leaves something to be desired. Some of the story is challenging to follow and there are just too many characters to keep straight.


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