The 22 Murders Of Madison May

By Max Barry

The 22 Murders Of Madison May, a novel by Max Barry
Book details About the author

Obsession can be a powerful emotion and lead you down a dark path. Being stalked causes the victim so much fear, not only because they are having to deal with the reality, but also what might happen. In the case of Madison May, she does not know she is being stalked until it is too late. A strange man enters her life and after only a brief conversation he stabs her to death. Why? This is no ordinary stalker; a mysterious man is jumping across parallel universes looking for the perfect Madison. If she fails in his eyes, then that Madison dies, and he moves on. Can anyone stop this killer from murdering any more Madison Mays? 

Max Barry has proven in the likes of Lexicon that they are an expert in speculative fiction. This is an author who can develop an interesting idea and weave a wonderful tale around it. The 22 Murders of Madison May is no exception. The concept of alternative realities and parallel universes is not new, to science or science fiction, but it is how Barry’s mind works that breathes new life into the concept. Why would someone cross from one reality to the next? The answer in this case is to murder someone repeatedly. 

Suddenly, this science fiction book has elements of a thriller and crime novel. You get a sense from the structure of the book that Barry developed the ideas from the central core of Madison May’s various murders and expanded from here and it works well. The novel is almost split into parts as we meet each new Madison. In just a few pages we learn about her life, her loves and in many cases, her death. The tales are almost short stories within themselves; thrillers and in one case a classic horror. 

The book does not stop here as although Madison may be the titular character, she is a peripheral character within her own book. The real protagonist is Felicity Staples, a journalist who finds herself getting embroiled in the action. Although a political journalist she finds herself investigating the brutal murder of a young woman (can you guess who?) Here she encounters not only the potential murderer, but another man who is chasing him. Knocked onto a train track, she gets back onto the station only to find the world she is in, is not as she remembers. 

Barry uses the character of Felicity to explain and explore this new world of parallel universes for the reader. She is as much in the dark as we are. When a twist is revealed to her, it is also revealed to us. Felicity’s naturally inquisitive mind makes the book feel like an investigative crime thriller as she hunts for clues. A deeper conspiracy is revealed about the killer and his pursuer. 

Madison May is speculative fiction rather than hard science fiction as we learn about many of the concepts but are not fully told about how they work. The science is not the point, it is the thrills. Towards the conclusion the book becomes a classic feeling crime thriller with sci fi twist. All the protagonists are drawn together for a set piece that will see some of them never moving on again. This book is a page turner. Barry has taken a classic science fiction concept and written something true to the author’s own style; thrills, spills, and kills.  

Written on 8th July 2021 by .

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