Publication Date: August 7th, 2018
Rating: 3.5/5.0 Stars
Main Takeaway: A classic Agatha-Christie-style whodunnit that will keep you reading all night, though the writing style leaves much to be desired.
**I received this novel from the author and publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. I received no compensation for this review, and the opinions expressed were not influenced by this transaction.**
As guests begin to arrive at Mitchell’s Inn, a remote and isolated getaway in upstate New York, they all prepare for a relaxing weekend away. But as a violent snow storm arrives, cutting the power and leaving the guests stranded at the inn, cut off from the world, the first body appears. The guests began to wonder who these strangers are that they are trapped with, as the truth becomes evident – there’s a killer among them.
An Unwanted Guest makes use of the trope made infinitely popular by my favorite novel, And Then There Were None – a group of people is isolated together, who one-by-one start dying, with the presumption that the killer is among them. It plays on the idea that someone you know is a killer, the fear that someone you know or love has completely fooled you. It’s paralyzing and real and emotive. It speaks to our inner instincts of trust and distrust, of love and compassion, of survival. This is why this trope has been done countless times in literature, movies, and television. We watch, read, and wonder, how could I possibly ever be so delusional? Surely I would know if someone was lying, was truly dangerous, had deceived me so atrociously? We follow the story, we suspect, and in the end we are always wrong.
Lapena expertly delivers the fear and suspicion of the “locked-room” style mystery. I stayed up all night reading, racing toward the end, toward the answers. I suspected and was wrong again and again. And in a classic Poirot-style reveal, I was utterly floored. An Unwanted Guest is a great, quick and easy mystery to devour on a stormy night in.
What leaves me disappointed, and why this novel receives 3.5 stars instead of 4.0, is Lapena’s writing style. I read The Couple Next Door, Lapena’s debut novel, and while I was impressed with the story, I was not impressed with the writing style. The same rings true with An Unwanted Guest. I had hoped that by her third novel, Lapena would have refined her sentence structures and smoothed her choppy narration. The writing in both The Couple Next Door and An Unwanted Guest is simplistic, abrupt, and awkward. It’s a good thing her plots are so juicy.