“As she drifts off, she thinks he hears a scream, somewhere far away. She persuades herself it’s not a scream, but a memory; she often hears screams as she’s drifting off to sleep. She’s used to it. They’re a precursor to nightmares.”
Mitchell’s Inn in the Catskills is the perfect setting for a mid-winter getaway. Guests arrive one snowy evening, each with a reason for wanting to get away to this quaint, off the grid mountain lodge. When the power goes out, the inn is plunged even deeper into isolation. One person turns up dead, seemingly from an accident, and the guests are unsettled. But when a second person is found dead, it is clear that there is a murderer in their midst, and nobody can be trusted.
An Unwanted Guest by Sheri Lapena has the loveliest murder mystery setting. Nestled in the forest, Mitchell’s Inn at first seems like a warm reprieve from the heavy snow falling outside, but as soon as the power goes out and the first body is found, I started to feel claustrophobic. No phone, no electricity, and no idea who the killer could be. In any thriller, the setting is of utmost importance to me, as it is essential in creating the tension and release that keeps the pages turning. This novel definitely lived up to my high expectations in setting the mood and got me hooked right away.
As I continued to read, I was drawn in further. The characters were developed just enough that I suspected them, fully able to see any one of them as the killer; but not so much so that I was saddened, as one by one they began to turn up dead. Lapena’s carefully crafted omniscient point of view shifts to show just enough of what each character has witnessed, while keeping their secrets concealed until the final reveal.
The ending did not leave me feeling shocked, and though I wouldn’t describe it as being a major twist ending, it was satisfying and left no loose ends untied. Overall, I fully enjoyed this novel, which is now my favourite of Sheri Lapena’s books. (I have read both The Couple Next Door and A Stranger in the House as well.)
A solid 4/5 for An Unwanted Guest by Sheri Lapena.