A special thank you to Edelweiss and Penguin Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Lapena's debut The Couple Next Door was an instant hit and received rave reviews and I thought it was a solid effort. Admittedly, I was underwhelmed by her second book, A Stranger in the House, and was unsure if I was going to give this one a go. An Unwanted Guest is on par with The Couple Next Door and that was a 3 out of 5 stars. It takes place at a secluded hotel and what unfolds is a thriller that is reminiscent of a classic mystery—think Agatha Christie.
Mitchell's Inn, nestled in the Catskills, boasts a cozy atmosphere. The stately rooms feature woodburning fireplaces and have just the right amount of nostalgia to be quaint, including no Wi-Fi or cell service.
When a winter storm knocks out the power, all contact with the outside world is cut off. The guests try to make the best of the situation until one of them turns up dead. At first it appears to be an accident, but then a second guest dies and panic sets in.
With everyone being a suspect, the guests have no choice but to weather the storm and each other.
I liked how Lapena juxtaposed the violence of the storm against the violent acts of murder and thought the premise was very good. The atmosphere and description saved the book because I was simply tired of the repetitious thoughts about who the killer is—the reader does not need to be reminded that each character needs to figure out which one of them is the killer. Isn't that the whole point of the book?
What baffles me is how removed Lapena is and this is the difference between 3 and 4 stars (to which she absolutely has the potential). Given that it is told from multiple points of view, this should be a character-driven novel because the characters ought to have enough depth and ultimately are responsible for propelling the narrative. But there is simply not enough distinction between their voices and for the most part, it feels like there is only one narrator.
I haven't given up on Lapena yet—she does has a way of engaging the reader right of the bat. For the most part, her characters are well developed but their inner dialogues need work and she needs to ensure that they have a distinct voice if relying on their perspectives to tell the story.