Grabbing my attention from the very beginning with a gripping, frightening prologue of a female running for her life, the armchair sleuth in me was on full alert.
What could possibly have happened to this young woman running for her life away from a burning building?
Just like an episode of Colombo or Murder She Wrote, I love a good book that gives you a glimpse of what the deadly outcome could be. It means I then read every paragraph and page looking for a clue or hidden meaning. It turns me into Jessica Fletcher, making me want to solve the crime before it is revealed; I almost become obsessed with trying to outwit the author.
After the tense opening, The Guest House then recaps back to 6 days before the incident so that we can gain a full understanding of what is going on.
Hannah is in a bad place. At 25 she is getting painfully drunk on an almost daily basis and living back at home with her mother after experiencing a terrible break up that led to the untimely death of her boyfriend, Ben. It doesn’t help that everyone who knew Ben blames her, quite rightly, for his death, and therefore she has become both haunted by his memory and destructive towards herself.
Before he died, however, when things were still great and loving between them, they had booked a week away in the Irish village of Fallon at the newly renovated Guest House, a holiday home pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
Hoping that this is what she needs to get out of her funk and move forward, Hannah hops on a plane and makes her way for a relaxing week in Ireland.
However, if Hannah believes that this week will be restful she is in for quite a shock.
After being dropped off by a rather stroppy taxi driver and walking for what felt like miles over country tracks Hannah arrives feeling slightly uncomfortable about the prospect of being alone in such a large, foreboding house. Suddenly hoping for further guests she rushes through the door and up to her room to settle her nerves.
Thankfully she isn’t alone for long and over the course of a few hours we read about the arrival of Mo and Sandeep, a father and son duo who once lived in the area, musician Lucy and Liam, Rosa and Chloe, a family that were apparently stuck there until their house sale went through. They all have their own stories to tell and no one seems particularly happy with their surroundings – not the house, the seclusion nor the company.
Sandeep, an ex-police officer, remembers the house before it became what it is today when the reclusive Lady Fallon was still alive. It seems the place was once quite a party pad, with everyone from the nearby village frequently visiting. So what happened to turn Lady Fallon into an unsociable, lonely old lady? What took place in the Guest House to leave everyone, even now, feeling so uneasy?
What terrible secrets are hidden here?
With no proper road leading up to the house and the bad weather descending like a blanket over the countryside, the group are stranded, unable to even wander the few miles into the village to restock on cigarettes and wine, so it is lucky that the custodian of the property has already fully stocked the kitchen cupboards for his guests. It means that they can remain at the property without needing to even alert the locals of their presence.
What should have been an idyllic stay in comfortable surroundings soon descends into a dreadful nightmare. With no phone signals or wifi the guests are unable to contact the outside world and it is not long before tensions begin to rise.
People soon start to hear noises in the night with some questioning whether their privacy had been violated when items go missing. Tensions show and with it a paranoia spreads across all guests when they start to question who they are actually staying with.
Throughout all of this, you can’t help wondering what the past history of the building has to do with the present and whether this particular group of people have been targeted for a specific reason. There doesn’t appear to be anything linking this unlikely bunch together but, as we all know, initial appearances can often be deceiving and as the story unfolds we begin to uncover more details about each of the individuals leading you to believe that it may not be simple case of coincidence that brings them all together at the Guest House at the same time.
What initially sounds like a random group of people coming together for a week of peaceful walks in the Irish countryside soon becomes something far more sinister and it becomes evident that not everyone is going to get out alive.
My Thoughts on The Guest House
Being a crime novel, as soon as you open the pages of this novel by Abbie Frost you know that this is going to be anything but a blissful break in a rural setting. However, other than the prologue, Abbie begins by unearthing more about Hannah, the main character. We read about her current struggles and to begin with, it is difficult to see how this could relate to the wider story. However, as the plot progresses we uncover more details that provide a link to the other individuals that feature in the narrative.
As you read through the chapters, you are taken on an emotional roller-coaster as different threads are added. This is not simply a crime novel of normal proportions though but one with an extremely heavy, underlying theme of abuse. What type of abuse and to who, I don’t want to say as it would somewhat spoil the story-line for you but all I will say is that even those that are prolific in crime fiction reading would struggle to see some of the twists coming.
For those that get emotional over books, get the tissues ready because you are likely to shed some tears whilst, at the same time, grappling with hatred for the conniving dark monster lurking in the background.
This novel has been compared to And Then There Were None by the crime writing queen, Agatha Christie which is a massive accolade and one I wondered whether she deserved before reading The Guest House. However, I can honestly say it is a well-deserved comparison and I do hope that she has more books in the pipeline because I for one, will be looking forward to them.
Have you read The Guest House? Did you enjoy it? Have you read another author you would compare to Agatha Christie?
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