Skip to main content

A Game for All the Family


A Game for All the Family

"It's a game for all the family!"

A friend of teenager Ellen Merrison makes this statement in reference to the board game Monopoly. It more than aptly plays up the title of this terrific and disturbing psychological thriller, A GAME FOR ALL THE FAMILY.

British author Sophie Hannah is a go-to writer of psychological thrillers for me, and it's a wonder she is not yet a household name in the United States. She is coming off a well-received novel, THE MONOGRAM MURDERS, made special by the fact that she is the first author to receive the blessing from the Agatha Christie Foundation to continue Dame Agatha's famous Hercule Poirot series. She was more than up to the task and will be releasing another Poirot novel this fall.

"Readers will be caught completely off guard by the twists held within these pages. You’re better off just to go along for the ride and enjoy every moment of it."

When she's not reimagining the great Poirot or penning another installment in her outstanding crime series featuring DIs Zailer and Waterhouse, Hannah has consistently put out fine stand-alone efforts. A GAME FOR ALL THE FAMILY falls into this latter category. Our protagonist and story narrator is Justine Merrison, who lives with her opera singer husband Alex and teenage daughter Ellen in the London suburbs.

With Alex usually on the road performing, it mostly has been left to Justine to manage the household and raise Ellen, who unfortunately is at that age where she is often moody and withdrawn. Justine is encouraged when Ellen makes mention of a friend at school named George, who supposedly has been suspended unjustly. She takes it upon herself to confront the principal at Ellen's school about George’s punishment, but is completely taken aback when the principal contends that there is no such person at the school nor has there ever been. Around the same time, Justine begins receiving strange phone calls from a woman who seems to know her very well and claims they share a past. Justine is baffled by this correspondence initially and later becomes alarmed and disturbed as each successive call becomes more threatening.

Things get even more perplexing when Justine comes home one day to find her daughter playing a game of Monopoly in her room with George, the young man who makes the comment alluded to earlier that is the basis for the novel's title. If you're not intrigued and confused by now, you will be soon. Hannah is a master of psychological thrillers and keeps upping the ante with each passing chapter.

Before long, Justine is unable to tell reality from unreality. She has been reading a recurring story Ellen has written about a family known as the Ingreys who once resided in their own home. Even though she can find no evidence to prove the existence of the Ingreys, her mysterious caller makes reference to elements included in Ellen's story. An inevitable showdown between Justine and her harasser soon will be at hand, and the outcome will be completely unpredictable.

A GAME FOR ALL THE FAMILY allows Sophie Hannah to show off her impressive plotting skills and effortless knack for building suspense. Readers will be caught completely off guard by the twists held within these pages. You’re better off just to go along for the ride and enjoy every moment of it.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 27, 2016

A Game for All the Family
by Sophie Hannah