3.5 star

Review: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

A weekend retreat at a cozy mountain lodge is supposed to be the perfect getaway . . . but when the storm hits, no one is getting away

It’s winter in the Catskills and Mitchell’s Inn, nestled deep in the woods, is the perfect setting for a relaxing–maybe even romantic–weekend away. It boasts spacious old rooms with huge woodburning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a good murder mystery.

So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in and try to make the best of it.

Soon, though, one of the guests turns up dead–it looks like an accident. But when a second guest dies, they start to panic.

Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. And there’s nothing they can do but hunker down and hope they can survive the storm–and one another.

I’ve been trying to catch up on Shari Lapena’s thriller/mysteries, so here I am with a review of another one! I don’t always have the biggest expectations for her books, as the ending is often not exactly what I want (like it was again here). However, as a queen of suspense in the page to page reading, it once again delivered.

An Unwanted Guest takes place in a quaint hotel up in the snowy mountains when 12 guests get snowed in by a huge snowstorm. In typical closed-room scenarios, one by one people start dying off for seemingly inexplicable reasons. We get the POVs of all the guests and the two attending staff, and so begins our journey of suspense. The journey is incredibly fast-paced and suspenseful, even if the ending was much less so.

Overall the characters were all very good. Typical, something-to-hide-that-gets-revealed types. All seemingly normal on the outside, of course. They felt mostly believable and I did not have any qualms with this. However, in what I think now is fairly regular Lapena writing, she introduces all her character at once in the beginning, essentially paragraph after paragraph. Getting introduced to about a dozen people in thirty pages is still quite disconcerting, despite them being paired off for the most part. By the middle I did keep track of them pretty well, and they were all different enough to be memorable, but that first onslaught definitely isn’t for everyone.

The plot and suspense were also top notch, something I’ve really come to expect and enjoy from Lapena. The books are always a short and quick (exciting) read, which is something I have recently really appreciated during my busy schedule. It is classically what you expect of a page turner, and if you are the type to just like reading for the psychological suspense and slight adrenaline boost, then this is definitely one for you.

The ending…oh the ending. It’s super hard for suspense and mysteries to have a satisfying ending. That being said, I’m not saying An Unwanted Guest had a bad ending. It made sense, and I think in general it was satisfactory, but I think really good thrillers will have that exciting ending that is slightly (fairly) unexpected but not too out of the blue. Nothing egregious here, but as much as I loved the rest of the suspense (95% of the book), the ending was of course the only thing I would really ding this book for.

All that being said, I think I will still continue through my quest of reading more Shari Lapena. I definitely enjoy these short fun reads, and it’s certainly nice to cozy up in the winter months to read!

Overall Recommendations

An Unwanted Guest is a fast-paced thriller murder mystery in a classic whodunnit style. Twelve guests get snowed into a beautiful luxury (vintage?) hotel. We get the POVs of all the different guests, and their anxieties as they get picked off one by one. The characters are great, and the suspense is beautifully executed as per usual. If you aren’t too bothered by slightly lackluster endings, this was definitely a quick read that I enjoyed!

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