In the classic 1939 mystery novel And Then There Were None, eight strangers are invited under varying circumstances to a mysterious estate on an isolated island off the coast of England. It’s there that, one by one, they are killed off by an unidentified murderer who just might be one of the guests themselves. Since its publication nearly 80 years ago, this beloved tale of psychological horror has delighted and terrified readers in equal measure, and if you’re one of the many people who counts it among their favorite books, you will love An Unwanted Guest, the new novel from author Shari Lapena. Set in an isolated hotel where snowed-in guests start turning up dead under increasingly suspicious circumstances, this addictive thriller will give you major Agatha Christie vibes.
Nestled in the picturesque Catskills Mountains in upstate New York, Mitchell Inn seems like the perfect getaway destination. A family business run by James and his young son Bradley, the charming old-fashion hotel has no wi-fi and no cell service to distract visitors, just gorgeous guest rooms, plush arm chairs, roaring fireplaces, and a library full of mystery novels. Gwen thinks the quiet is perfect for Riley, her best friend who she hopes will find relief from her trauma there, at least for a few days. David, a defense attorney, is seeking relief of his own, from a stressful job and some ghosts he’d rather like to leave in the past. For Beverly, a weekend at Mitchell Inn, away from the kids and the house and work, just may be the thing to get her marriage to Henry back on track. For couples Lauren and Ian and Dana and Matthew, it’s simply a chance to enjoy each other’s company and the trappings of young love. For Candice, an aging author, it’s her chance to complete the book that will finally give her career the kind of acclaim she’s always wanted.
But what begins as a dream vacation for some quickly turns into a nightmare for everyone when the dead body of one of the guests is discovered at the foot of the hotel’s grand staircase. Surely, it must have been an accident, an unfortunate trip or a drunken fall, everyone assumes at first. A tragedy, no doubt, but not one that could have possibly been purposely committed.
Unable to call the police because the power has gone out, unable to leave because the snow and ice has trapped them inside, the guests of Mitchell’s Inn have no choice but to wait out the storm. Trying to make the best of an awful situation, the guests attempt to salvage the weekend with the assistance of food, drink, and each other’s company. The more time they spend together, though, the clearer it becomes that no one person really knows the other — not a best friend, a partner, or even a child — and suspicions quickly mount.
Then, when someone suggests the death looks an awful lot like murder, and after another visitor turns up dead, the rest begin to fear the worst: There is a killer somewhere in the hotel, and anyone of them could be the next victim. Worse, any one of them could just as easily be the murderer. Snowed in and stuck inside a hotel with a murderer on the lose, the guests at Mitchell Inn can’t do anything but wait and hope they won’t be the next victim. And really, what could be more horrifying than that? “Hell isn't imaginary; it’s real,” Riley thinks to herself, just as scared as the rest of the visitors at Mitchell’s. “It’s a real place and it’s also a state of mind.”
Like the Christie classic, what makes An Unwanted Guest terrifying isn’t just the prospect of an unknown murderer hiding in the shadows, but the possibility of a killer within their ranks. Has someone snuck into the hotel with plans to pick the guests off one by one, or is one of the guests themselves responsible for the deaths that seem to keep piling up? “It feels like they’re playing at something, some sort of parlor game, or murder mystery evening with the lights out,” Henry thinks to himself. “Only no one’s having fun.”
A bone-chilling story featuring a cast of intriguing characters, each one with a secret of their own, An Unwanted Guest is a deftly crafted and expertly paced thriller that will keep readers guessing (and terrified) until the very end.