Mystery/Thriller

My Review: An Unwanted Guest: by Shari Lapena

Publish Date: July 26th 2018
Number of Pages: 290 Pages
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Genre(s): Mystery

Total Star Rating: 2.75 Stars

While it’s nothing exactly new to the Mystery/Thriller genre, this book is still an entertaining addition that I think a lot of readers can enjoy. I’d say it’s become a bit of a mystery trope for a small cast of strangers to come together, and for someone to begin to murder them one by one (The Agatha Christie trope perhaps?). Figuring out the secrets of all the characters, along with their motives if they were to be exposed as the killer is something that I consider so much fun about mysteries; it’s amazing to see how it still works even all these years later, even when Agatha Christie’s work was first published in 1920. You guys…that’s almost a an entire century as I type this, so I find that absolutely amazing!

What It’s About:

The story takes place entirely at a small, beautiful, remote hotel in the middle of the woods in upstate New York. Cell Service is limited, and there’s no wifi, its the perfect place for people to go to literally escape the hustle and bustle of their lives, relax, and truly enjoy themselves. It’s the middle of an incredibly cold and dreary winter, and a deadly blizzard just over the horizon as 11 guests all converge there for the weekend, not knowing the horror they are about to experience…

The blizzard hits and the power goes out with absolutely no way to contact anyone for help, so all the guests bunker in and expect to patiently wait it out. People had all arrived for different reasons: to escape, to have their own writing retreat, a romantic couples weekend; everyone just wanted to enjoy the soothing, rustic experience that the hotel usually offers.

When the first body shows up at the foot of the grand staircase, everyone assumes its an accident, well, almost everyone. When the second body appears later that afternoon, panic begins to set in, but then a third body shows up and all hell breaks loose. Someone there is slowly killing the guests trapped in the hotel one-by-one, and it’s either someone who’s snuck in, or it’s possibly one of them, but who? They’ll need to band together and find out before the storm wears off and they’re all dead by the end of the weekend…

What I Liked:

  1. Homage to the Queen of Mystery! This book is a classic “whodunnit” style murder mystery, and felt very much like an Agatha Christie novel. The Original Queen of Mystery always wrote her mysteries in a similar fashion; bring a cast of characters together, have them become isolated from the outside world somehow, let them all have dirty secrets that they don’t want exposed, and let one of them be a murderer, and keep the mystery short.
  2. The Buildup! The suspense steadily and purposefully rose in excellent fashion as the story developed. I love a good “whodunnit” style mystery, and it’s always so much fun to try and figure out who the killer is, and try to decipher any clues you might think pop up that the author reveals. I’d say the story is also character driven, and the paranoia and unrest that escalates the suspense was done so well, your curiosity will get the best of you!
  3. The Little Surprise Included in the Ending! Not to give much away, but it’s something that the author had hinted at several times in the book, and I found the whole thing amusing, as amusing as a fictional murder twist can get.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Lack of Details…For me, this is specifically for the characters. There’s such little descriptions of them and what they look like, I found myself frustrated with trying to remember all of them and what they may appear as with so little given for me to work with. I’m a face person, not a name person!
  2. Disappointed in the Climax…The buildup was actually impressively done, but then you get to the climax, the killer is revealed…and I found myself put out by it. I was a little disappointed, plus the reveal was something no one could have figured out because the author didn’t give any of the information to help you figure it out until afterwards. I get that some mystery authors do that on purpose, Agatha did it too, but this one just really fell flat for me. I wished the author maybe thought of something a little more clever about how to tie it all together.

Conclusion:

A fun, thrilling, quick mystery for anyone to enjoy; it’s not too graphic or gory detailed, and the characters become an interesting bunch. The buildup is probably what was done best, and you yourself start to feel the paranoia at how little is revealed until it is almost too late. Personally, I was very disappointed in the ending and found it underwhelming compared to the rest of the book, but that’s just me. Perfect for fans looking for an Agatha Christie-esque mystery; this books is fun, modern, but not nearly as impressive of a take on the style that made the OG Queen of Mystery so iconic.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

1 thought on “My Review: An Unwanted Guest: by Shari Lapena”

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