Review: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

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 outside the hotel, 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.

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena is about a group of individuals trapped inside an isolated hotel with a sinister atmosphere, building by the day.  The guests thought they were escaping to luxury, paradise, relaxation.  Instead, it’s the hotel of horror with bodies piling up.

This story concept sounds promising – the blurb delivers in what a blurb should do; it made me buy the book. Similarly, the opening narrative was very enticing. The first few chapters introduce the reader to multiple characters, of who Lapena gives interesting profiles.  Subsequently, the book is very rich in characters, and multiple narratives per chapter. Think of Cludeo murders meets Murder on the Orient Express. No narrative is reliable or irrelevant, and as the book goes on, the characters and their personal issues develop and come to light, contributing to mystery of the novel’s plot.

There’s an unhappy marriage. Two happy couples. A man wanting peace and quiet. A woman wanting time to work. Two ladies with two very different personalities. A father and son. There’s an array of characters.  Personally, I liked the troubled relationship dynamics, and there were a few. It reinforced mistrust and suspicion, really keeping the reader on the edge of their seat.  Although, it was really hard to connect with all the characters, and at times, even just one. Multiple narratives can remove a layer of engagement with the reader.  Unfortunately, this happened for me. I didn’t find myself feeling sadness when something happened to the characters, or dreading something would.

However, An Unwanted Guest’s setting must be praised. The setting and atmosphere of this book – a remote inn – helped establish a tone of fear and uncertainty. I was actually thinking throughout, this book is the perfect mystery/thriller for winter season/Christmas holidays. The setting effectively chilled me, as it set my mind churning, made me feel suspicious and the way it made me alert of my own surroundings, was quite surreal.

I found there to be very little twists and turns in the bulk of the book, just murders and suspicions of characters. In fact, it’s the last 30 pages that tie up the book with the plot revelations. I partially predicted the ending when the book was near finished, but until then, it was an open field of suspects.

I’m satisfied with the end, but I do feel as though the story simply missed the hit-home factor. Furthermore, I feel the explanation of the murders (in the big “reveal”) could have been developed more. Maybe dialogue would have helped. I completely understand why Lapena didn’t do this, she explained it through the character, but that doesn’t satisfy me. Personally, I felt the lack of dialogue disconnected me as a reader from engaging with the reveal and characters. However, I was certainly engaged with the last chapter. The very last pages were satisfying enough to almost recover my disappointment in the solved-mystery/case-closed, because, it just was. You’d need to read it yourself to get that. It wasn’t mind blowing, dramatic or unexpected, but it was satisfying.

The book is well written, and was an easy read as I read it within three days.  I’d certainly recommend it worth a read.  The book’s pace is rather slow, but it’s a murder mystery in a remote hotel, I wasn’t expecting anything more. It’s a slow-burner, by way, it is still a little sluggish beyond the half point of the novel.  I gave this book 3 stars on goodreads as it was just too much of a slow-burner for me, and due to the problems I had engaging with the characters at times.  However, to date, this is one of the best books I have read regarding the setting having me on edge!

Buy It Now

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
Published 15th July 2018
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller


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