BOOK REVIEW: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

When I was a kid there was nothing I looked forward to more than the release of a new Nancy Drew computer game. There was something about being left to my own devices to solve a mystery that made me feel more alive than ever. My favourite thing about the games was the atmosphere – the secluded setting where Nancy was cut off from the outside world and could only interact with the few people around her. One game in particular, called Treasure In The Royal Tower, took place in a ski resort where several guests had been trapped by a snow storm. It was my absolute favourite, which is why the moment I cracked open Canadian literary star Shari Lapena’s new novel, I knew I was going to be pleased.

A little bit of backstory before we dive into the review: Shari Lapena is one of Canada’s hottest authors. Her two past novels The Couple Next Door and A Stranger In The House have been massive hits. Her latest novel, An Unwanted Guest, was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. She’s a master of atmosphere and thrills. She also liked my Instagram post the other day (which resulted in a little happy dance in my work office).

An Unwanted Guest, published by Random House, is about a group of strangers who are snowed into the tiny, secluded hotel in the Catskills they’ve all come to stay at for the weekend. What begins as a fun getaway and a chance to meet new friends quickly goes off track when one of the guests ends up dead. With no power, no help coming, and no way to know who is responsible, the remaining guests descend into chaos as they try to survive the weekend, and one another.

What I loved so much about An Unwanted Guest was how much Lapena left me to my own devices to try to solve the mystery. Layering small clues throughout the story, she made the novel twisty and turny enough that I found myself second-guessing my suspicions. With well-developed characters with detailed and interesting backstories, An Unwanted Guest is as much a character study as a mystery novel.

This book definitely has an Agatha Christie vibe to it. It’s campy and atmospheric and filled to the brim with fear, suspicion and greed. Every character is only trying to look after themselves, which sets the scene for some of the nefarious and frightening actions people commit.

If you’re looking for a fun, exciting read over the holiday break, I highly recommend grabbing a copy of An Unwanted Guest. If you enjoy mysteries and thrillers this is the perfect book for you, but it’s not so scary that it will turn off readers who may not enjoy those genres as much. And if you ever played a Nancy Drew computer game, the best possible thing you can do to reminisce on the good old days is grab this book.