The 22 Murders of Madison May

Max Barry

The 22 Murders of Madison May
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The 22 Murders of Madison May

Max Barry

‘I love you. In every world.’

Young real estate agent Madison May is shocked when a client at an open house says these words to her. The man, a stranger, seems to know far too much about her, and professes his love - shortly before he murders her.

Felicity Staples hates reporting on murders. As a journalist for a mid-size New York City paper, she knows she must take on the assignment to research Madison May’s shocking murder, but the crime seems random and the suspect is in the wind. That is, until Felicity spots the killer on the subway, right before he vanishes.

Soon, Felicity senses her entire universe has shifted. No one remembers Madison May, or Felicity’s encounter with the mysterious man. And her cat is missing. Felicity soon realises that in pursuit of Madison’s killer, she followed him into a different dimension - one where everything about her existence is slightly altered. At first, she is determined to return to the reality she knows, but when Madison May - in this world, a struggling actress, is murdered again, Felicity decides she must find the killer - and learns that she is not the only one hunting him.

Travelling through different realities, Felicity uncovers the opportunity - and danger - of living more than one life.


I like to review Australian crime books, partly because it’s always good to boost local writing – it’s something that Readings has championed since the beginning – but also because it feels like authors here are doing much more interesting things than in other countries. I saw it this month in John Byron’s unexpected The Tribute and in the format of Nicola West’s Catch Us the Foxes. Australian writers are doing something new with the genre, and it makes them a real pleasure to read. You can add to that list Melburnian Max Barry’s The 22 Murders of Madison May, a parallel-universe thriller where real estate agent Madison dies in the first few pages, and then college student Madison dies again a few chapters later, and then – well, it doesn’t get better for her after that.

After the first Madison is stabbed to death while showing a house for sale, reporter Felicity Staples inadvertently gets the story. Her hunt for clues – mainly, the meaning of what was slashed into the wall of the house by the killer – leads Felicity on a chase that ends with a strange man pushing an object into her hands and shoving her off a train platform. When she gets out, though, the world is not the same as it was. There’s no annoying clock above her desk anymore. She’s got one less cat. And in this world, Madison May isn’t dead, and nobody knows what murder Felicity’s talking about. But somewhere, in the streets of New York, a man is searching for Maddie May, somebody is searching for that man, and Felicity, who has no idea what the hell is going on, is about to get involved in the story of her life. Many lives over.

This is a cinematic, vastly entertaining action-adventure that stills the world around you as you read it – because anything could happen and you still wouldn’t look up from its pages. A wild, epic ride!

Fiona Hardy is a bookseller, author, and our monthly crime fiction columnist.

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