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We'll resist the urge to begin this post with a line about liking piña coladas and get straight to the point. British American musician Rupert Holmes – the same one who sang “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” – has written a clever new murder mystery, Murder Your Employer: The McMasters Guide to Homicide.
Born in the Cheshire town of Northwich in England, Holmes had an American father and his family moved to the US when he was six. Though best known for his 1970s recording career, he's been a working playwright since the mid-1980s, first tackling a musical adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He's won Tony Awards for his work in theatre, he created a TV series called Remember WENN for AMC, and he published his first novel, Where the Truth Lies, back in 2003.
That's a long way of saying Rupert Holmes isn't your typical celebrity novelist who's incapable of producing something readable without a team of ghostwriters and some very heavy outside edits.
What's Murder Your Employer About?
Ever wonder what would happen if the person you despise vanished? Enter The McMasters Conservatory, a college dedicated to perfecting the art of murder.
To be accepted, students need a good reason for wanting someone dead. The school's ultra-secret hidden campus could easily find you becoming a classmate's target, and the brutal final thesis requires you to find a deserving victim and pull off the perfect murder.
Choice Quotes from Murder Your Employer
From the beginning, it becomes clear that Holmes had fun with the book. The foreword opens as follows:
So you've decided to commit a murder.
Congratulations. Simply by purchasing this volume, you've already taken the all-important first step toward a successful homicide of which you can be proud, one that would gain you the admiration of your peers, were they ever to learn of it.
This book will see to it that they don't.
It's the kind of opening that gives you confidence in the strength of the author's voice.
From there, the story moves into twisty tale of intrigue in a place that's a bit like Hogwarts for wannabe killers. It's lively and humourous, with occasional dashes of the sort of humour you'd find in books by Sir Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, or Colin Bateman.
One such line:
OPERATING YOUR TABLE RADIO To hear Bach’s 5th Brandenburg Concerto, turn radio ON. To not hear Bach’s 5th Brandenburg Concerto, turn radio OFF.
Though the book is distinctly American (only making it on here because of the British connection), it still has a bit of British flavour. In describing the school, McMasters, the book offers:
Many undergraduates firmly believe they are in some part of the United Kingdom, and although we are international in terms of faculty, student body, and scope of students, the atmosphere here is decidedly British. This is in no small part because a majority of the buildings both grand and humble that dot the realm of McMasters were veritably plucked from a far-ranging estate in Derbyshire named Oxbane, whose Victorian Gothic manor was a major expansion of a seventeeth-century mansion built on the gritstone remains of a Norman fortress.
So there you have it – like Holmes, Murder Your Employer has a little bit of both nations in its makeup.
Who Should Read Murder Your Employer?
If you like light and amusing mysteries like Richard Osman's Thursday Murder Club series or Colin Bateman's Mystery Man series, do yourself a favour and at least download the free sample on Kindle so you can give it a try.
If you're more of a serious crime novel reader, this one might be a bit light for you – but it can still be a good palate cleanser between some of the more gruesome novels out there.