The Whodunnit? book series is based on the television series of the same name. The television series is an actual competition where 10 or so individuals are brought to a mansion in order to essentially be the last man standing. One of the contestants is actually the killer, who in each episode kills off one of the contestants who had performed poorly in figuring out how the previous murder had been committed. The remaining contestants examine various parts of the mansion, solve riddles, and team up with other contestants in order to gain the most knowledge about how the murder went down. They state their case to an empty room and the contestant who does the best job is recognized along with the two or three who do the worst job. Eventually there are 3 contestants left and there is only one contestant remaining in the room with the killer. Also, important to note is that there is a butler, Giles, who speaks for the killer and relays his/her messages to the contestants explaining that he too is a “prisoner’ at the mansion and must do the killer’s bidding or else.
My opinion on the television series is that it was definitely a fun and entertaining way to spend our weekends in the summer. When I saw the first episode, I told my husband that I had just seen one of the cheesiest murder mystery television shows. The cheese and the humor was what kept us watching each week. Chris had a pretty good idea who the killer was from the very beginning due research he had done on the Internet about the contestants and, to be honest, it didn’t really matter to me who the killer was. I just liked watching each week to see what crazy, funny thing was going to happen or what silly thing was going to be said by one of the contestants. We had some issues with the show: it was never explained how the killer snuck away from the group to commit the crimes or was able to do so undetected (and there were some blaring contradictions), the killer’s motive was never really explained, and it was not said how and why the butlers and maids came to be there and were being held captive by the killer.
The first season of this series aired this last summer, the summer of 2013. The creator of the show and writer of the books, Anthony Zuiker, is also the creator and executive producer of the uber famous CSI television franchise. He is also known for creating the book series entitled Level 26, which provides the reader with a web-based “digi-novel”. Anthony states in the introduction of the first book, Murder in Mystery Manor, that in creating the television series and thinking about the rules of the game that the set-up seemed to lend itself to a book series that would allow the readers an opportunity to have an even more in-depth experience solving the murder mysteries. The two novels allowed Zuiker to fully flush out the story that he had in mind when he was creating the television series. The same issues that are not explained very well in the television show are not explained all that well in the books either. It seems like in the second book the author attempts to fix those issues but doesn’t quite get there. One thing I did notice about the second book was that it felt to me like the author recognized how cheesy and funny the television series was and catered to that a bit more. There were some lines said that made me laugh out loud. One problem that I discovered came with turning the show into a book was that there wasn’t much suspense due to the set-up and rules of the show. The only twist is who the killer is. Each murder is explained as soon as it is committed and as the book progresses you begin to figure out who the killer must be because of simple attrition. I had a pretty good idea of who the killers are in each novel because of the way the formula of the show is set-up, so no room for intriguing twists.
I picked up the audiobooks for the two novels because I saw that they are being offered for free on audible and I figured that they would be a relatively easy listen. I enjoyed them as a distraction while cleaning or doing other things around the house because I didn’t feel like the books deserved my full attention. I did, however, appreciate that Zuiker got the actor who played Giles in the television series to be the narrator for both books. While I was impressed with his versatility with his voices, I have heard better performances. I am not sure who to recommend these books to. If you liked the series this summer then you might like picking up the audiobooks, especially if you have already used up this month’s credits and are looking for a book until next month’s credit comes in.