Member Reviews

I didn't know what to expect from this book, and by the time I'd finished reading I still wasn't entirely sure (in a good way!) Murder by Natural Causes is part crime, part historical. even a bit of women's fiction thrown in - and it really works. I especially loved the first chapter which tricks the reader and how this sets the scene for the story that follows. I liked how the Bridge element was really unusual and woven in nicely to the plot, and also the strong female lead who we gained information about as the book went on.

Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley for an ARC of this book.

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It has been a long time since I was so thoroughly pleasantly surprised by a book. I thought the premise was really unique. The story and the dialogue made a compelling story even better, and I could follow along with the past-present time changes with ease. I could not put it down and looked forward to each twist and turn. I found myself wanting to know more about not only the main character, Cilla, but also all of the people we were introduced to both in her present-day life and in the flashbacks. I can't wait to read more by this author.

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Murder by Natural Causes is engaging, well-written, and tells us of dark times before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the USRR. Cilla has a high IQ, does not fit into her family or family life and is taken by the government to become a murderer. She does her job and returns to the motherland until she decides it's best not to and initiates her life as a private paid assassin in London. She feels little emotion and shows none which makes her infalible. Will she change again and why? This is a dark story about crime, brain wash, and how a girl becomes a woman and discovers life and how to own it.
I thank Ms. Erichsen, her publisher, and NetGalley for the copy of this book.

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I was really looking forward to reading this book, the premise really drew in. One of the more original ideas I’ve seen around in the last few years, Cilla, a 22 yr old female assassin. Speciality? Hits that look that natural causes. I mean…what’s not to like there?
This was a book that was extremely well written, the main character had been well thought through and had a lot of depth to her.
The storyline was original and well executed. My only niggle with it really, is that it’s a bit slow paced. With a story like this, it could have easily coped with a bit more going on and given it a but more oomph back too.
On the whole, it’s a good read, and I would recommend it to others.

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I think I’m an outlier but this book wasn’t it for me. I really wanted to love it - I was excited about a female assassin and her stories, but it was just so slow. I got bored and stepped away from this book for days at a time on multiple occasions.

The dog thing made me mad/sad; I understand it was necessary for the story but WHY the dog?! I feel like the ending of the book was anti climactic and felt unfinished.

As I mentioned above, I do feel like I am an outlier for this book so please take my review with a pinch of salt.

ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Murder By Natural Causes is an excellent debut novel by Helen Erichsen. She has demonstrated her writing skills, original plot and characters, and I have very high hopes for any future books from her which I will definitely be excited to read.
Cilla is 22 years old. She is a killer for hire. Her specialism is making death by murder look like death by natural causes. She is very good at the job. She can freelance, so long as she is available to do five jobs a year for her main client, Vladimir, the owner of a bridge club. In return for this, he pays her well and lets her stay in one of his flats in London. She also has a cover job working n his bridge club.
Cilla is an absolutely fascinating character. We learn a lot about her in the two time storyline, one in the 80s when she is a child, growing up in Russia the other in London when is 22. It is Helen's skill in writing the character of Cilla that sets this apart from other books of this type, going into Cilla's childhood is a huge part of this. I was left wondering how different Cilla's life would have been if she had not changed schools, and had not given certain answers to certain questions at various times.
An excellent and thought provoking book. I very much look forward to Helen's second book.
Highly recommended.
Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publishers for a Kindle copy kd this book in exchange for an honest review.

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'Murder by Natural Causes' tells the story of Cilla, a 22-year-old contract killer who specialises in making murders look like natural deaths. Born in the Soviet Union, she was taken away at 15 after scoring near perfection on a specialized test. In the academy, she excelled for the first time in her life. In adulthood, she has a powerful client in London, Vladimir Haugr. Known as a drug lord, club owner, and impaler, Vladimir is a notorious figure in the criminal world. Messing with him is not a good idea. Cilla gets housing and financial support in exchange for performing her assignments. Although she has an unassuming appearance, Cilla is a sophisticated and talented individual who has survived in a world of danger and betrayal. What dangers await Cilla as her conscience stirs?

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3.5 stars for a books who’s publishers blurb sounded 5 stars.

Cilla Wilson is 22 years old and has a career as a contract killer, she’s been described as plain and ordinary but these skills are positive attributes for her work. She has been killing since she was 14 years old, she’s very good at it and making a murder look like natural causes.

Cilla is a product of Soviet Russia, she was removed from school at the age of 10 and taken to be trained at Academy 43 to become an assassin for the government.

Cilla’s story is told in dual timelines, one follows young Alexandria’s development into a the trained assassin Cilla and how she ends up working with Vlad. The other details her current day activities and her attempt at freedom.

This is an unusual read, it is a crime novel filled with detail, dark humour, unexpected twists and developments and will also have you rooting for the villain. This is a gripping read which has a lot of unusual characters which will keep you wanting to know what happens next.

Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Murder By Natural Causes by Helen Erichsen

I overall did enjoy reading this book. I particularly loved reading about Cilla's childhood and her experiences at Academy 43. This book centers around Cilla's experience with the Soviet Union which, although this can be a controversial topic, is handled very sensitively, impartially and factually by the author. I found it extremely chilling reading about the ideology of the Soviet Union and how they were using their own children as weapons. The tactics described by Erichsen that they used to train the children into cold, merciless killing machines was horrifying to read, and she did an amazing job showing the psychological abuse / brainwashing that the children were put through. The author did a great job at making us aware of Cilla's sociopathic tendencies, but also making it clear that Cilla is simply the product of the Soviet Union and not inherently a bad person, which allows us to sympathise with her. character. I loved Cilla's character (even if she is a crazy killing machine) and enjoyed reading about her friendship with Amelia as well as the way that Cilla's family dynamic is explored. These inserts from Cilla's past were the most enjoyable parts of the book, and I found myself rushing through the present day sections desperate to read more about Academy 43. The scene at the shooting range in Academy 43 when Cilla makes her first kill was particularly troubling to read and I found myself cringing, feeling as if I were watching a horror movie being acted on out the pages in front of me.

I must admit I did not enjoy the present day sections as much as the flashbacks to Cilla's past, and found myself becoming a bit bored at certain points. Personally I think the book would have been just as interesting, if not more so, if it had simply focused on Academy 43 and not Cilla's employment with Vlad. The storyline involving Vlad could have been utilised as a sequel rather than them both being squashed into the same book, but that is just my personal opinion. I did however enjoy learning about all the sneaky ways in which Cilla could kill people; clearly the author did a lot of research on these methods, because they were very factual and precise. I liked learning about all the different concoctions Cilla makes using drugs and plants and how they affect the human body as well as the interesting weapons she had used like the "guiding pin", even if it was gruesome and incredibly disturbing at times. I also very much appreciated Cilla's decision at the end to kill the husband and not the wife; I could have cheered when she threw him out that window haha. I liked the character growth shown by Cilla, which this final dry job, and her interaction with Smithy at the end represented. I thought what happened to Vlad, although again a quite visceral and horrifying scene, was in some ways karma and poetic justice. The author is clearly very psychologically and trauma informed as Cilla's inner mind was explored perfectly, which made this book even more interesting and entertaining.

There was a lot of dark humour in here, which somewhat lightened the otherwise very dark, disconcerting and gruesome feel of the book. Everytime Cilla spoke about "Vlad the Impaler" and described him impaling people on railings, I couldn't help but giggle (even though the actual crime is not at all funny) because this was just the most outlandish, strange modus operandi ever!

I absolutely HATED the ending and it ruined the entire book for me. I think the attempt was to leave the readers with a cliffhanger, but instead it just came across as if she had forgotten to include the rest of the story. I do usually like a cliffhanger, but this final chapter was too fast paced so it seemed rushed, and then it had such an ambiguous ending that I was simply frustrated and finished the book on a sour note. I'm hoping that this ending means the author will be planning to write a sequel, but either way this ending was really disappointing and totally random. It would not have been difficult to write a few more lines and leave the readers not feeling totally confused and unsatisfied.

I also didn't quite understand the point of this story other than it having a lot of shock value. The plotline revolved entirely around Cilla assassinating people, which was definitely interesting and enjoyable to read, but there was no underlying depth to the plot, so it was very one level. Furthermore, Cilla's sudden epiphanies were a bit random. I understand the author was using these to show Cilla's character growth and show how she had made the decision to put herself first and to become a better person, yet they were very sudden and weren't explained well enough. It was almost like a snapshot decision on Cilla's behalf and, after years of being brainwashed by the Soviet Union, I did expect Cilla to have to go through more internal struggle than to simply wake up one day and say "ahh, time to stop killing". Also, the Soviet Union's attempt to "kill" Cilla by sending her to Vlad was just slotted in there and no reason was ever given as to why this was done, which was frustrating; this would have been a good opportunity for the author to explore Cilla's motivations for joining Vlad and abandoning the Soviet Union ideology further.

Overall, I did find this an enjoyable read, yet there were certainly issues I had with it. I feel that certain parts were overly long (like the scene when Nancy and Cilla go to the rave; I mean what was the intent behind including this?) and that parts which needed exploring further (like Cilla's decision to quit killing or the Soviet Union's attempt to get her killed etc) were not given enough time or given enough depth. I did like Erichsen's writing style and will look forward to reading more from her.

I rated this 3 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Netgalley and Helen Erichsen for the ARC.

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What a fun rad! The premise of a 22-year-old contract killer initially caught my eye, but the novel was a bit of a coming-of-age story as Cilla matures and makes decisions for her own future. I enjoyed getting to learn how Cilla grew up, though with the chapter titles helped distinguish timeline changes. I wanted a bit more in regard to the ending, perhaps there will be a sequel.

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Cilla is a 22 year old who at a young age was chosen to attend a special school Academy 43 for her unique traits and special talents, the school exploits her talents and trains her to be an asset for the Soviet Union by staging a number of murders and making it look like it was caused by natural causes.

One day a hit is called on her and she finds an ally in an unlikely person. Can Cilla survive and reinvent herself as someone different? The book was a good read but there wasn’t anything much action or suspense.

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First of all I would like to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I was unsure of this book as I went into it as didn't know if it would be too far fetched but the more I read the more I started to enjoy it. The book flips from alternative timelines between modern day and the main characters childhood where she was training to be an assassin. It gave me some what of a Killing Eve feel as the character was built up so well that I ended up rooting for the villain.

As a debut novel I think it was written really well and I look forward to seeing what comes next from this author.

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3.5 ⭐️ rounded up to 4⭐️ for GoodReads and NetGalley.

Thank you to NetGalley and Muswell Press for providing me with a copy post-publishing date.

I really enjoyed this book. A great debut novel that considers a few interesting questions. I think one of the main ones though is: are psychopaths born or made?

Cilla's story is well-crafted and I enjoyed the parallel storylines showing the reader her present and her past. The past storyline really went into detail on Cilla's childhood and how she was "made" in Academy 43, all the way to her deal with Vlad. It was a nice way to loop back into the present storyline on what she is trying to accomplish when we first meet her.

I'm not sure I'm a big fan of the ending though, and by that I mean the actual last page or so. It feels a bit too open-ended for my liking 😕

I did, however, enjoy the role that came to play the Levine family in getting Cilla to find a future. The overall plot was really well done.

Here are a few things though that made me remove the 1.5 ⭐️:
- For a while, I was confused as to when this book was taking place. I got the overall Soviet Union part of the story and figured it was probably somewhere in the 1980s or so. Eventually close to the end of the book you get sort of a better idea of the timeline when the Berlin Wall's fall is mentioned. I think the author is talented enough to have given craftier hints as to the year either storyline was taking place.

- The main question I highlighted above: are psychopaths born or made? Erichsen touches on the topic multiple times in various parts of the book. Yet, every time it felt like something was lacking in the discussion. I'm not saying that Erichsen should have given a clear answer to the question, but I do believe that she could have played more with this than she did in the book.

Overall, it was an enjoyable, well-crafted, and well-written read. I would recommend it without a doubt ☺️

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Murder By Natural Causes by Helen Erichsen is a darkly witty and gripping thriller that introduces Cilla, a 22-year-old contract killer specializing in making murders look like natural deaths. Cilla’s unremarkable appearance helps her blend in, making her an effective and elusive assassin. However, with her main client, Vladimir Haugr, and a series of freelance jobs, Cilla knows her luck might run out soon.

Erichsen crafts a compelling story with a unique and morally complex protagonist. Cilla’s cleverness and determination are fascinating, and the novel’s blend of suspense, dark humor, and well-researched detail makes it a standout in the crime genre. Fans of Killing Eve and The Queen’s Gambit will find Cilla’s story both thrilling and irresistible.

Overall, Murder By Natural Causes is a must-read for anyone who enjoys a smart, darkly humorous thriller with an unforgettable female lead.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Muswell Press for the arc in exchange of an honest review

A witty novel following a female assasain who doesn't consider herself a killer. She operates so it seems as natural causes and takes on jobs for others. Cilla was interesting character. She was quirky and kind of morally gray, but that was also the reason it was so fun to follow her. She had her own charm.

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Honestly, this was a little bit of a strange read. Or rather, the protagonist is a strange one but then again, that is part of her charm. Cilla is a killer for hire. She prefers, however, to kill in such a quiet way that it appears to be death "by natural causes". A Dry Job as she calls it. She has one main client who sounds like a bit of a mafia boss but then she's also got some freelance going (for a very excellent personal reason). In between her present-time chapters, there were her past chapters which I found very illuminating. I'm not going to give anything away though as it's really something you'd just have to read for yourself. And that ending... it's quite something!

There is one very big complaint from me though but I'm not going to say too much on that either. Suffice to say, it's about a dog and that it just should NEVER happened!

My thanks to Muswell Press for ecopy of book via NetGalley in exchange of my honest thoughts

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Cilla is an assassin. Her specialty is dry jobs, deaths by natural causes or suicides that doesn’t get identified as murders.

When she was younger, she got into a special program in the Soviet Union, where she learned all about how she could make murders seem like natural deaths. When the institute closes, her new job is to eliminate different targets that’s chosen by the Union.

After a betrayal that she was lucky to notice before the consequences became impossible to overcome, she starts working for Vladimir Haugr, in return for a flat, a retainer, and expenses.

Cilla isn’t strong or beautiful, but her unremarkable appearance is an advantage in her job. She is clever, stubborn, and lucky, has survived because of her abilities, but her luck will soon come to an end. Will she be able to create a new personnea for herself that will survive, or face all the consequences that she once upon a time cheated her way out of?

The disappointing thing with this book is that it had so much potential. A school training assassins, a smart protagonist that cheats her way through her life, time jumps, the idea was really good. But the problem here is that this book is too repetitive and has too many unneeded details.

The writing style wasn’t especially unique or interesting. As I mentioned earlier, it’s written in a dual timeline, one that follows young Cilla in Academy 43 and one that follows present Cilla.

Cilla herself was a pretty intriguing character, but the story told through third person didn’t really hone her personality. I think this book would’ve worked better in first person, because while the plot is interesting the main character is what makes it more unusual.

I would recommend murder by natural causes to fans of true crime.

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Man I almost didn't finish this one. I was a quarter of the way through it and had even went so far as to hit "I will not be giving feedback on this title" but I decided to stick with it. I'm glad I did. It's not my typical kind of book, which may be why the beginning was so slow for me. Once I started telling someone about it, I realized how much I was enjoying it.

The characters were well rounded, I liked Vlad and I liked Cilla. Though Smithy didn't seem nearly as significant throughout the book as he seemed to be at the end. And just a touch too much bridge lingo.

Cilla was such a badass but in an unexpectedly realistic way. Child assassin made by Soviet experimentation? I can believe it. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more books by this author.

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One of the hardest sub-genres for me in crime thrillers; murder mysteries, is the hit man saga.

Film and TV brought us Nikita, a memorable female assassin. My favourite in literature though is Lawrence Block’s Keller. I guess the balance is the ingenious assassinations against the victim’s innocence. How can a reader remain sympathetic in the light of cold hearted murder of strangers, passing over this to build engagement with a contract killer?

Of course outside of financial undertakings, the murders sanctioned by state are the basic elements of espionage stories and spy thrillers; indeed the very essence of James Bond, 007, licence to kill.

For me, Murder by Natural Causes is a breath of fresh air, adding to this genre and bringing something new and clever to the female assassin story.

Schooled by the state, but not to become a gymnast or Olympic athlete, rather selected to be an invisible killer, an instrument of dogma who can hunt out dissidents and defectors and end their lives.

The way the story unfolds maintains one’s interest in the story and binds the reader into the life and struggle of the protagonist, Cilla.

There is also a balance between duty, obligation and survival that reinforces the fine line between valuable asset and expendable liability. I thought the logic and steps Cilla takes, to not just survive but have a viable future were believable and brought a depth to the book, fully investing the reader in the process.

Nothing is straight-forward even in a linear story and Cilla’s best endeavours and planning are countered by a cunning and intuitive employer.

Overall, this isn’t a book that glorifies killing as much as demonstrates the human spirit and ability to learn, adapt and survive.

A wonderful strong female lead, bright and resourceful. Yet demonstrating a vulnerability that makes Cilla an unforgettable and enjoyable character.

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"Murder By Natural Causes" by Helen Erichsen was a thrilling and captivating book from start to finish.
The story revolves around Cilla, a 22-year-old contract killer who specialises in making murders look like natural deaths. Her main client, Vladimir Haugr, is a powerful figure in London and provides Cilla with opportunities to carry out her assignments in exchange for housing and financial support. Despite her unassuming appearance, Cilla's intelligence, cunning, and luck have kept her alive in a dangerous world where betrayal lurks around every corner.
What struck me most about this book was the unique and complex character of Cilla. While she may seem ordinary on the surface, her inner strength, resourcefulness, and courage make her a truly compelling protagonist. As we delve deeper into Cilla's past, including her upbringing in Soviet Russia and training at a specialized academy, we gain a deeper understanding of the forces that have shaped her into the proficient assassin she has become.
The plot is beautifully crafted, blending elements of mystery, suspense, and action seamlessly. The narrative keeps you on the edge of your seat as Cilla navigates a dangerous world of government assassins, shady clubs, and high-stakes intrigue. The pacing was excellent, and I found myself eagerly turning the pages to uncover the next twist in the story.
The ending left me wanting more, and I sincerely hope there will be a sequel to continue Cilla's story. Helen Erichsen has crafted a fantastic debut novel that delivers a fresh and exciting take on the thriller genre. "Murder By Natural Causes" is a must-read for anyone looking for a gripping and unconventional tale filled with intrigue, action, and unexpected twists.

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