Nine Night Mystery book cover for review
Book Reviews

The Nine Night Mystery | Book Review

By Sharna Jackson (pub. Puffin Books, 2024)

I’m at our neighbour Rachel’s house in her room. I just dropped a paintbrush she asked me for on her floor, and she didn’t do or say anything when it rolled under the bed.

Not because she’s asleep or lazy.

But because she’s dead.

Rachel Kohl. Dead in her bed.

So begins The Nine Night Mystery. The party that Rachel’s friends threw for her the night before is marred by Wes’ discovery of her body the next morning. Rachel was only 40 though, so the question is…how did she die?

No mystery will go unsolved while the Copseys are here though! And the more they dig into the party guests and their relationships to Rachel, the more they discover that things are not what they seem. Can they unravel the tangled web surrounding the dead woman? And can they do it all in nine nights to help Rachel’s duppy cross to the other side?

Nine Night Mystery book cover for review

The Nine Night Mystery is the second in The Copseys series, following on from 2022’s The Good Turn. The first book introduced us to Josie, Wesley, and Margot, following their founding of The Copseys – a sort of locally-based Scout group, consisting so far of the three of them – and the solving of their first mystery.

This story however kicks off immediately with the death of the children’s neighbour Rachel. And I mean immediately – the quote used at the top of this review is from page 1! From that prologue we’re taken back to the night before, and the surprise party.

The invitees are an eclectic bunch, who mostly don’t seem to know each other and all know the birthday girl in different ways. And it doesn’t take long for the Copseys to notice oddities in their behaviour, both with each other and with Rachel.

So when Rachel turns up dead, of course they look to the suspicious characters they met the night before. But this is no normal mystery – in fact, the question of how Rachel died is answered on only day 3. The story of Rachel’s life is a complicated one though, and every person there has touched it in some way.

One of the guests introduces the idea of holding a “nine night”, which gives us our framing and the Copseys their deadline. A nine night is a Caribbean tradition, somewhat like an extended celebration/wake, where family and friends gather for nine nights in a row after the death to play games, pray, and talk about the deceased.

It’s not just for those left behind however; the deceased’s duppy (i.e., spirit) also has this time to finish up their earthly business before they go beyond, whether they want to or not. During all this, Wesley is convinced that Rachel’s duppy is haunting him, making his desire to see this resolved even stronger.

All three of the children have grown since we met them at the start of The Good Turn. This growth starts during the first book, and it’s nice to see the continuation of it here. None of them are perfect, and still fall back into bad habits, but they are more likely to notice now, or react better when called out on them. The relationship between them also feels more natural, with the sniping feeling more good-natured, and apologies coming a bit easier.

At the start of book 1, Wesley is a bit paranoid and a scaredy-cat; he still lashes out sometimes, but we can see his attempts to trust people more now. Josie is originally proud and stubborn, but we can see her continued efforts to be more open and allow others control. Finally, Margot is at first a bit mean and agrees with Josie in all things, but now is more inclined to stand her ground or have her own opinion.

I enjoyed having Wesley as our point-of-view character in this book. In the first book it was Josie, and having the previous insight into her mind helped me follow her behaviour more in this book. Wes’ thought processes are very different to Josie’s, and it means I can look back at his behaviour from book 1 and understand him more. I’m now wondering if Margot will be our focus in book 3!

The adult characters range from perfectly normal, to larger-than-life, and many of them underestimate the Copseys. It is interesting to see how they interact with the children, and how the kids in turn can use this to their advantage, whether it’s in nonchalantly asking probing questions or sneaking around while playing innocent.

Both books approach the chapter structure in fun and different ways; in book 1 they were playfully named after possible relevant ‘badges’, such as cleaning or scavenging. Book 2 is much more focused on the plot than the “Copseys” framing, so breaks the story up into sections of each day and night until we reach night nine, making it easier to remember where we are in the timeline.

The only thing I would say is missing is the map of the local area that we got in book 1. It was handy to get a sense of how close certain houses were together, though the fact that the second story takes place entirely in either Copsey Close or places much further away means it probably isn’t really necessary. I just like maps!

And what we get instead is worth it – the Copseys’ investigation notes detailing the questions surrounding Rachel’s death, and a table listing all the guests, their motives, and their suspicious behaviour. This is updated a few times throughout the story, helping us keep track of the children’s progress.

The ending (no spoilers!) is excellent, giving us a proper Poirot-style denouement where all the guests are gathered, and their connections and secrets laid bare one-by-one. The plot threads all fit together, with no loose ends or unanswered questions – apart from, maybe, was Rachel’s duppy really haunting Wes…?

I was thoroughly gripped by the story, and by each new plot twist that emerged. Hints are dropped, and some of the reveals can be guessed, but it feels like the right amount – there’s nothing worse than a mystery that feels completely unsolvable due to hidden information! And like any good mystery, this is one that you’ll want to read again to spot the various clues you missed, and see how it all fits together from the start.

The story deals with some difficult topics but, although the themes are different, they’re not more challenging than those dealt with in the first book. The characters are around 12 years old, which feels like an appropriate reading age. The chapters are quite short, which keeps the pace up even in relatively calmer moments. It’s worth noting that the UK paperback comes in at just short of 500 pages, which may look intimidating but it doesn’t feel long or drawn-out when reading.

I don’t think that you have to read the first book to get this one, however I do feel that it adds something to the characters’ developments. And it’s a good mystery in its own right, so I’d recommend it anyway!

Oh, and I do hope we see Bobby return for book 3…!

If you want to help Wes, Josie, and Margot solve whodunnit, you can get a copy of The Nine Night Mystery at the link below.
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Looking for more mystery reads? If so, you can see our previous mysterious book reviews here.