An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

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We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.

—                         —                         —

I am a huge fan of Lapena’s writing and have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of this book for several months. I listened to the two previous novels, The Couple Next Door and The Stranger in the House, but switched to the eBook after about an hour on this one. An Unwanted Guest has many characters, and most share the POV scenes. It is was too much for me to listen to the book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it after I switched to reading it.

Throughout most of the story, I kept guessing as to who the murderer was. There were a couple of characters that I immediately deemed “safe” and never really suspected, but the author did a great job of leading you on in several directions. The anguish, fear and suspense that the characters felt as their companions dropped one by one was clearly communicated.

This is a very fast paced book that most readers could likely finished in one sitting. The text is broken up by date and time updates, such as, “Sunday morning, 4:03 am”. In doing so, and by excluding traditional chapter headings, the story seems to flow more smoothly and it encourages the reader to keep reading towards the end of the book without breaks.

The style of the book is very similar to Insp. Poirot and The Orient Express, which the author actually references at one point in the story.

I was deeply engrossed in this novel. My Mum also loved it, and finished it even faster than I did. I will definitely be reading the next novel that Lapena pens, as soon as it is released.

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xx

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The Good Daughter (Karin Slaughter)

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Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever…

—                         —                         —

The Good Daughter is the most recent crime thriller that I have listened to during this kick that I am on. And it was EXCELLENT.

It was the first time that I have picked up a book by this author, and I have to say that her stories are detailed with deep backstories for each character and a ton of depth. Every character had different facets of their personality, and each had at least one redeeming quality, or character flaw.

I started this book thinking that it was mostly about the school shooting and Charlie representing Kelly, trying to get her off the murder charge, but this storyline only serves to bring the Quinn family back together after nearly twenty years. The Good Daughter opens with the tragic events that destroyed their family 28 years ago, and flashes back and forth between that night and the present. The story is also told from both of the daughters’ perspectives.

I felt that the pacing to the story was timely and finished this book in four days. I did predict the ending and unravelled several points in regards to the past and the school shooting very early in the book but I didn’t find that this took away from my enjoyment of the story at all. I will definitely be going back to read more books by this author!

This audiobook is very pleasant to listen to. It is read with a southern accent which changes slightly for each character, something that is really helpful, especially since the book is told from several characters’ POV.

There are graphic descriptions of violence, murder and sexual violence in this book. Generally, the victims are teens at the time and this may be difficult for some readers to get through.

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xx

 

A Stranger In the House

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He looks at her, concerned. “How do you feel?” She wants to say, Terrified. Instead, she says, with a faint smile, “Glad to be home.”

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.

There’s a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.

The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good.

Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won’t stop asking questions.

Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.

—                         —                         —

After finishing The Couple Next Door in record time last week, I decided to jump straight into Shari Lapena’s new book, A Stranger in the House. It is another crime thriller and features the same investigators, Detectives Razback and Jennings, but an entirely new cast of characters otherwise.

The story flows smoothly and I found myself just as engrossed as I was in the previous book. There isn’t the same sense of urgency in my approach because the crime isn’t centred around a missing baby. My maternal instincts weren’t in play this time – fiction or not – and the murder victim isn’t nearly so sympathetic. I still wanted to know who had killed him though and whether Karen would get off.

The thing about twisty authors is that the reader learns their style and it can become easy to predict certain things from that habit. I had theories about the identity of the murderer of course, but as the chapters wound down, it was easier to predict the outcome.

*** Minor Spoiler Ahead ***

I will say that I really appreciate that the author named the murdered man Robert, and the neighbour’s husband Bob. This threw me off for awhile because I thought that Karen was referring to Bob when she was brought into the hospital, semi-conscious and rambling Robert’s name. I kept waiting for him to pop up as sudden suspect, or at least to take on increased significance.

I loved this book as well and will anxiously await the announcement of another coming from this author. On her website, I learned that she is a local author so I am going to try to convince the library I work at to invite her for an author visit event in 2018!

The only other point of note is that the audiobook has a different narrator than the woman who read The Couple Next Door. I like both voices but this narrator pronounced certain things differently, (read: wrong in my opinion!), such as Det. Razback’s name, and this annoyed me.

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xx

 

The Couple Next Door

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You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

—                         —                         —

Shari Lapena has been the bestselling author behind a couple of book club heavy hitters the last couple of years. Her book The Couple Next Door remains popular in my library and has received mostly rave reviews.

It is a crime thriller. A baby is abducted from her crib with no apparent evidence or motive. The parents are desperate to find her but police aren’t so sure that they are innocent.

The Couple Next Door is told from several different perspectives, but most of the chapters are from Anne (Mum), Marco (Dad), or the detectives’ points of view. This story is engrossing, and super easy to read. The language is simple but every character has multiple issues you have to work through, layers to peel back, while the reader tries to figure out who is behind Cora’s kidnapping.

Although abducting an infant is a heinous crime, there is little violence in the book and none of it is graphic. I wouldn’t consider The Couple Next Door to be a particularly dark book and several friends with young children were able to enjoy the book as well.

I loved this book until the very end. The only part I didn’t like was the final bit, after the arrest (or arrests), but I can’t elaborate without giving away an important plot point. You’ll just have to trust me that you’ll know it when you read it.

The narrator of this audiobook has a pleasant voice that was very easy to listen to. I would definitely be interested in other books she has read.

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xx