From the author of The Couple Next Door, An Unwanted Guest is the third novel by Canadian author, Shari Lapena. Once a lawyer and a teacher, I think it is fair to say that Shari is making big waves in the crime writing world with her inventive, gripping stories, and this one is no different.
An Unwanted Guest: The Story
There are times where everyone wants to get away from modern day living. It seems like we can no longer survive without a good internet connection or a mobile phone signal but there are occasions when even the most hardened of business men need a break.
In the latest novel by Shari Lapena, however, the lack of modern communication abilities seems to be the downfall of the guests at remote Mitchell’s Inn.
In this exciting new whodunit it feels like we are going back in time slightly to the golden era of Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels, when a murder is committed in a hotel cut off from the outside world due to a snow blizzard.
Everything starts well, but as a reader, from the opening pages, you know something sinister is going to occur. The guests arriving at the hotel believe they are all in for a restful weekend where they can enjoy good food, fine wines and perhaps a bit of outdoor exploration and to begin with everything seems to be going to plan.
Yes, the roads to reach the hotel are a bit treacherous but once the guests have all arrived and evening cocktails are being served by the open fire in the lounge everyone seems to be in good spirits, but will this happy mood remain?
The guests themselves are an eclectic mix – Ian and Lauren, a young couple still getting to know one another; Matt and Dana, a wealthy pair planning a lavish wedding; Gwen and Riley, journalist friends from University; Henry and Beverly, a married couple on the brink of divorce; David the criminal defence attorney; and Candice a writer who prefers to be left alone.
Everything seems to be on track until the following morning when Dana is found dead at the bottom of the grand staircase. With no menacing threats being made the question is raised – was it an accident? Did she wander down the stairs in the dark and loss her footing? David, the attorney is not convinced and insists the body remains at the foot of the stairs until the police can assess the situation for themselves. There is just one problem – due to the aggressive storm, all phone and power lines are down, leaving them with no way of contacting the outside world.
While this unnerves people, the thought of an accidental death helps them all to continue on with their weekends although in a much more subdued manner. That is until a second victim is claimed.
With nerves fraught, accusations start to fly. It seems that no-one can be trusted and with bodies beginning to pile up the decision is made that everyone will remain together in the lounge area until contact with the outside world can be made, but will that stop the murders?
Has someone else being staying at the hotel without their knowledge? Could a member of the group be callous enough to kill their fellow guests? Only time will tell.
Why I think others should read An Unwanted Guest
Unlike many other whodunit novels of recent years, An Unwanted Guest really does keep you guessing. Just when you think you have identified who is responsible, something happens that throws your theory completely out of the window. It is a novel full of twists that even the most savvy crime fiction readers would struggle to predict.
It is also extremely refreshing (well as refreshed as a murder tale can be). It is not gruesome or graphic. It is a novel that I would describe as more of a Sunday afternoon, coffee in hand, relaxing kind of read. At one point I even started to imagine it as more of a Cluedo type of game – thinking about who would be killed off next, where and with what?
For crime fiction lovers looking for a gripping thriller without the harrowing descriptions this is the perfect book.
Have you read An Unwanted Guest or any of Shari Lapena’s other novels? Have you read any other crime novels recently that you would recommend to others?