24 October 2023

Review: Everyone on this Train is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson

Everyone on this Train is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson book cover

* Copy courtesy of Penguin Books Australia *

Ernie's back after the events in the last book (Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone) and following on from his subsequent publishing success, has been invited to attend a crime writer's festival held on The Ghan. This forms the setting for Everyone on this Train is a Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson and what you need to know from the outset is that this is meta fiction.

Ernest (Ernie) Cunningham regularly breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader directly. One of the ways he does this is by telling us up front that we can safely assume he survives the tour - given he's writing about it - but he also gives us a list of suspect names. He even specifies how many times the killer's name will be mentioned for those eager enough to count the occurrences. (Not me).

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson was one of my favourite books in 2022 and while it wasn't a debut for this talented Australian author, I still wondered whether it was a 'one off' quirky, refreshingly unique writing style and format unlikely to be successful a second time around. OMG, I'm here to tell you this man can write!
"I'm still learning about the book world and my place in it, but even I knew then that McTavish was the sourest tasting word in publishing - popular. It's the tautology of authorhood: apparently if you're good enough to be popular, you're too popular to be any good." Page 31 
Set on The Ghan (the train of the title), this is another brain teasing, mind stimulating laugh out loud slap to the face of a book and I couldn't get enough. Stevenson readily gives the reader clues the entire way, yet still manages to surprise us.

Full of insightful yet funny character observations - remember the author is also a comedian - Ernie's description of his Aunt Katherine was wild:
'Katherine is my late father's little sister. A wild youth had been transformed by a tragic accident into an uptight adulthood. She's a stickler for rules: her star sign may as well be School Principal. She barracks for the umpires, and is the type of person who says, with a completely straight face, "How could you forget? It's in the calendar."' Page 40
The writer's festival is attended by a cast of characters, including writers with varying degrees of publishing success, agents and fans, and I loved the competitive nature of their interactions and the pettiness, ambition, pride and egos on display.

On what to wear to the restaurant on the Ghan, Ern shares a theory of his with the reader:
"My theory is that the less wealthy you are, the better you tend to dress for expensive events - meals, the theatre - as your effort in dressing matches your effort in expenditure. A week's wage: better pop on a tie. One billable six-minute increment: I'll wear boardies to the opera, no worries." Page 107
Booklovers will relish the publishing jargon and observations from the characters like this one with regard to fiction titles:
"You know, you put the full name of the character in the title? Put a number next to it too, if you want to get real flashy. It's the trendy thing right now. The Eleven Orgasms of Deborah Winstock, that's the Erica Mathison; The Five Lives of Erin O'Leary; The Four Cousins of Barbara Who-Gives-A-Toss. They're everywhere." Page 211
Fans of Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone will note a similar methodology here, however I'd eagerly sign up for another 10 outings with Ernest, flaws and all, confident in the knowledge I'm in Stevenson's expert hands. This was such a wild ride and I enjoyed it all the more when my husband read it immediately after me.

Everyone on this Train is a Suspect
by Australian Benjamin Stevenson is another triumph and a strong contender for this year's Top 5 Books of 2023 list. Highly recommended!

Board the train here to read a FREE extract.

My Rating:

Would you like to comment?

  1. Great review. I enjoyed Everyone in My Family so will definitely read this one.

    1. Thanks so much and if you enjoyed the first one, you're sure to love this too! I wish I still had it to look forward to on my TBR 😊


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!