Tuesday, 26 March 2019

An Unwanted Guest - Shari Lapena

Lapena's atmospheric story rises well but falls flat.

Her previous novel, The Couple Next Door was  a page turner. It had garnered a lot of praise and I was looking forward to it.
The premise and the style was amazing and I remember finishing it in a few sittings, although it became predictable after a point.
Her bios state that this Canadian writer was a lawyer and an English teacher  before turning her hand to full time writing.


Seven guests are making their way on a windy night to an Inn in the outskirts of New York on an icy Friday evening. They all have their reasons to be there. But then weekend does not go per plan especially after a guest is found dead at the bottom of the stairs.

Since it could not have been anyone from outside - the snow had cut them off from the outside world - the needle of suspicion starts moving towards other guests. What makes it interesting is they all have a secret to hide.

Who could it be? Is the killer on a murder spree? Who will be next and why?

What works: 
  • The atmosphere. Lapena creates a great setting. I could feel myself battling through the snow as  the characters drove in. I could feel the cold, the frustration at the powercuts and the edginess of the guests. 
  • It reminded me of an Agatha Christie novel. Lots of people in a country house. A murder and suspects - the guests. The setting is brilliant and irresistible for any crime aficinado. Lapena puts it to good use.
  • The characters. Lapena's characters are interesting and very layered, well etched, the backstory to each one is shows good planning, it adds to the story.
What does not work:
  • The denouement. The way she built it was amazing, the sense of foreboding, the icehouse, is absolutely great but then it falls flat.
  • The problem lies when it is time to reveal the whodunnit. The revelation is dull and from then on, gets predictable.
  • Lapena has done well with this one than the other one, where there is more than one twist. However, I still felt a bit let down with the big reveal.

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