Bantam Press | 2018 (26 July) | 302p | Review copy | Buy the book
As the guests gather at Mitchell’s Inn, a remote country hotel in New York State, a winter storm strikes, sealing the inhabitants into the hotel with snow and lethal ice, cutting them off completely from the outside world. For some of the guests this might be a good thing, especially the writer who wants some peace and quiet to work on her book, for the high powered defence attourney who needs a break, as well as the young couple wanting some time alone before the bustle of their big society wedding. For others, though, enforced seclusion seems a terrible thing. Particularly for the couple who have to decide whether it’s worth trying to save their marriage for the last time, or for the two women who have been friends for many years but whose relationship is now threatened by secrets. And then there’s the poor owner of the hotel and his son – how to look after their guests in such circumstances? But all might have been well if it hadn’t have been for the body found at the foot of the stairs…
I read An Unwanted Guest in one sitting during a very hot summer’s day when the idea of a country retreat cut off by snow and ice, with cosy fires and cocktail trolleys and libraries, seemed particularly appealing. Except for the killer guest, of course… I could have managed without them. I was immediately sucked into the book and I could not put it down unfinished. This is cosy crime at its most appealing, ticking all of the boxes, and beautifully written to boot.
There are huge similarities to Agatha Christie’s superb And Then There Were None. This did rather take me aback at first but really this resemblance could be hailed as a homage to Christie. It captures the mood and menace while also repeating Christie’s magnificence in revealing an excellent plot, bit by bit, and hiding the killer until the last minute and doing a fine job of keeping their identity hidden. I did not guess who did it! I’m so pleased about that.
I loved the wintry menace of An Unwanted Guest. The Inn is described wonderfully, managing to be both cosy and terrifyingly chilly. The small group of characters is fascinating. Each has a story to tell, secrets to hide, and it’s so much fun finding out what they are. The claustrophobic setting, the unexpected deaths, the limited number of suspects, the influence of the stormy weather – all are classic ingredients and Shari Lapena puts them together perfectly. Arguably, An Unwanted Guest is too similar to And Then There Were None, a novel I’ve read several times, but it’s nevertheless a huge amount of fun and definitely not easy to put down.
I haven’t been a fan of all of Shari Lapena’s novels but I absolutely loved An Unwanted Guest and would recommend it to anyone after a good holiday read, especially if you need to cool down in the heat!
The Couple Next Door