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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 4 October 2013
Very readable, well observed, satirically presented middle England social landscape, opened up by the act of violence which provides the plot. The 'depth' is in the social observation, highlighted by satirical distortion which sometimes verges on the absurd to portray the superficial and temporal nature of the comfortable affluence of a small cocoon in the Home Counties. This is not a Scandinavian thriller - the characters are caricatures as indeed is the social and economic context - but it pivots around the crime to provoke some (unanswered) questions about the 'something rotten' in contemporary times and mores. It is perhaps slightly longer than it should be but the story moves fast enough to want to get to the end.
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on 1 July 2017
I enjoyed the humour but eventually it became as boorish as some of the characters. Perhaps that was the point. A good read, but some of the descriptions was over wordy . I would try another of his books though. Good characterisation and very telling of a particular time surrounding the Banking fiasco of 2008.
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on 5 March 2017
The book is a good read and the story unfolds well... But the antics of the middle classes in the book are, to use a middle class word a bit "boorish" and can make for some dull bits
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on 22 October 2016
One of the most boring books I've ever read !
Terrible dribble !
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on 27 March 2017
Loved the book and certainly a wake up call but really left up in the air was the body under the train at Watford Junction Johnny 's as I suspected
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on 14 July 2014
Good read.pretty dark though.
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The Deaths begins with the discovery of a series of murders by a coffee delivery boy. Yes, the characters The Deaths, by Mark Lawson, order coffee for their expensive espresso machines from a subscription-only coffee supplier, clamouring for `limited edition' runs of ever more expensive bespoke blends. They're those sorts of people. And really, that's what this book is about: a certain type of person. Despite opening with a murder and spending the rest of the novel in flashback until the identities of the deceased and the motive for their murders are finally revealed, The Deaths isn't really a mystery novel as such and the murder plot is simply a vehicle for a dark social satire.

I've read reviews which have talked of The Deaths being a satire on the affluent middle-classes but - by my standards at least - these people strike me more as super-rich than simply affluent. The four couples around which the plot revolves, known as The Eight, own ponies, enormous detached sandstone houses with annexes for live-in nannies and own up to four cars apiece including a 'shopping Beetle'. All their many children are at private schools and only one of the women - Emily, a GP who also seems to be the only character who isn't entirely repulsive - has a job. Oh, except for Tasha, who ostensibly runs a party catering business but whose clients seem only to consist of other members of The Eight.

As you might have guessed, The Deaths is not a novel about people you'd want to spend an afternoon with unless you had money to burn and a lack of any social conscience. The Eight move in the circles of bankers, tycoons and QCs. They're hideous snobs and thinly-veiled racists; they're loud, socially competitive, superficial and spiteful, and Mark Lawson pulls no punches when it comes to lampooning them.

The satire is exceptionally sharp and well-observed and often laugh-out-loud funny as Lawson picks apart the values and lifestyles of The Eight, allowing us to examine them in forensic detail. There are times when it begins to wear thin, though. For instance, it's funny to learn for the first time that Jonny Crossan, a barrister whose father was a member of Thatcher's cabinet, refers to a bowel movement as `a Smedgewick', but less entertaining on the fifth or sixth mention. It's also the case that when Lawson steps out of the adult characters' viewpoints and writes as their teenage offspring, the characterisation is much less successful and cringingly far off the mark.

The Deaths lacks subtlety of tone but is extremely readable and peppered throughout with neatly inserted hints, clues and red herrings that keep the reader guessing until the final outcome. I actually found that I frankly didn't care which of the characters was dead on any emotional level, simply because they are to some degree interchangeable anyway, right down to their matching Australian au pairs, children with names like Henry and Josh and Plum, and their large-dog-small-dog combos (a dopey gundog and a scrappy terrier apiece) and I could feel almost no sympathy for anyone's plight, such as it was. However, this certainly didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book, which I found gleefully and grimly entertaining.
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VINE VOICEon 17 July 2016
I was astonished by this book; and am astonished by some of the reviews here, which seem to have missed the point entirely. This is bitter social satire, revolving around a group of four families. All are deeply unattractive - snobbish, materialistic, conceited and ignorant. But the reader knows a horror is lurking: one of the families has been slaughtered, but which? As others have mentioned it can be difficult to keep track of the characters at first- but that's easily dealt with by just making a note of the names on the insude cover. Not too much to ask, surely? The satire is horribly accurate. These ghastly characters can be met at the parents' evening of any private school, or seen prowling the aisles of Waitrose, scanners at the ready for their Chaumes and Epoisse. And yes, at the end there is an unexpected twist - one that takes place completely offstage and has to be inferred from an unanswered phone. Did none of the reviewers here notice this? I went back and reread the last few pages to pick up the clues, which were there, and gave a sad portrait of an unraveling life.
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on 4 September 2014
Not as clever or as hard hitting as Mr Lawson would have liked it to be and desperately over long, but with enough pace that I wanted to know what happened, even if getting there was harder work than it should have been for a light, trite piece of fiction.
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on 16 January 2017
Just finished reading this for the second time (after a rather long gap, so I had forgotten the outcome) and it was just as brilliant as the first time. I certainly had trouble trying to guess who committed the acts described at the beginning of the novel and enjoyed the lead-up as well as the ambiguity of the very final pages. The ending certainly left me guessing, and wanting more. Some reviewers have called the characters slightly one dimensional and while I see what they mean, it must be tough trying to create eight main characters with vivid detailed personalities, as well as a wide range of supporting characters. I think the author did a great job! I loved the world he created with these funny, often out-of-touch people and the twists and turns of the story had me gripped. If you like a lengthy novel which really feels immersive, this is the book for you.
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