I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Shari Lapena’s latest novel, An Unwanted Guest, today. I absolutely adore mysteries where the murderer is one of a limited number of people (a la And Then There Were None) and An Unwanted Guest is a very welcome addition to this category.
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.
An Unwanted Guest opens with the various characters arriving at Mitchell’s Inn, and works as a brilliant introduction to everyone involved. Whilst there are several characters, I thought that Lapena did an excellent job in making them all individual and with their own idiosyncrasies which made it easy to avoid confusing x with y as the story progressed. I thought that the first night – before things really get started – was brilliantly done as you see all of the guests mingling, and start to form opinions as to who might be trouble given that you already know a little of what is to come.
The storm is already making itself known as the guests begin to arrive at Mitchell’s Inn, and it doesn’t take long for them to become completely trapped by the weather. Whilst they have chosen Mitchell’s Inn because of its remote nature and the ability to get away from it all for a weekend, this is a little more than they had in mind, particularly with the discovery of the first body and the loss of power, and what may have initially seemed like a little adventure takes on a much darker tone. And the guests can’t even call for help – not that help could get to them easily if it could be contacted – the hotel being so remote that there is no mobile signal or internet access. They are completely isolated and what should have been an idyllic retreat becomes a living nightmare.
One of the real strengths of the novel for me was the way that Lapena brought the claustrophobic atmosphere to life – you can feel the growing tension that the guests are feeling as they have to band together, knowing that one of their number is a murderer. As secrets begin to emerge, allegiances shift within the party, and there’s an element of cabin fever as they begin to distrust each other and the accusations – rational and otherwise – begin to fly.
An Unwanted Guest has an excellent plot – there are several feasible options as to “whodunnit”, and I didn’t work it out before the big reveal. I love it when I get to the end of a novel and think “ah yes – the clues were there all along”. I think that this is a sign of a great thriller, and that’s how An Unwanted Guest left me feeling at the end. I also loved that even when I thought I knew everything, there was one final little twist which – and this says a lot about me – made me a laugh a little. It was just perfect.
An Unwanted Guest was published on 26 July by Bantam Press. Many thanks to Anne Cater and the publisher for the early review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour: