The Deaths, by Mark Lawson, is one of the most interesting books I read in 2013, and also the most thought-provoking. Although I've often listened to Lawson's radio programmes, and watched him on TV, I've never read his fiction before, although it's been clear for a long time that he's very interested in the crime genre. The Deaths is a book about crime, but it's also a mainstream novel, rather than avowedly a genre work.
That said, the central plot gimmick is one that was (to the best of my knowledge) dreamed up by Anthony Berkeley in the Golden Age of detective fiction. This is a "whowasdunin", when we know that murder has been committed, right from the outset - the opening line is "The deaths are discovered because of the country's sudden obsession with perfect coffee" - but are left to guess who the victims are, as well as whodunit.
This is a book set in the aftermath of the financial crisis, and focuses on four wealthy couples who live cheek by jowl, and whose apparently charmed lives are just about to turn rather unpleasant. There is a great deal of social comedy in this book, with some very funny lines, and acute observations. I struggled to like the characters, I must say, and it may be that Lawson overdoes their odiousness, but this is a gripping story which kept me fascinated from start to finish.
I have one or two quibbles. The idea that a PR guy would be sent out to negotiate a severance deal with a departing bank boss struck me as incredible,but then again, this book was not aimed at employment lawyers. I also wasn't convinced by some aspects of the life and career of one character who is a barrister. These points nagged at me, because it would have been easy to avoid them,but in the overall scheme of things, they didn't matter much. I've enjoyed discussing The Debts with someone else who has read it, and although in this post I'm keen to avoid spoilers, I can recommend it with confidence that others will enjoy it as much as I did..