AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
The twisty new thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door and A Stranger in the House
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 relaxingmaybe even romanticweekend 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 electricityand all contact with the outside worldthe guests settle in and try to make the best of it.
Soon, though, one of the guests turns up deadit looks like an accident. But when a second guest dies, they start to panic.
Within the snowed-in paradise, somethingor someoneis picking off the guests one by one. And there's nothing they can do but hunker down and hope they can survive the stormand one another.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Shari Lapena is the internationally bestselling author of the thrillers The Couple Next Door, A Stranger in the House and An Unwanted Guest, which have all been both New York Times and UK Sunday Times bestsellers. Her books have been sold in 35 territories around the world. She lives in Toronto.
Read an Excerpt
Saturday, 5:45 a.m.
Morning comes slowly, the sun obscured by thick cloud. Overnight, the falling snow, so peaceful, has turned to sleet, coating everything in brittle ice, making the landscape even more dangerous to navigate. It seems everything is about to snap. Inside the inn, there’s a distinct chill in the air.
Lauren rises early, freezing, even with the warmth of Ian pressed up beside her. Her neck is stiff. She gets out of bed, shivering, and hurries to put warm clothes on, wondering why it’s so damn cold. She slips on jeans, a T‑shirt, a heavy sweater, warm socks. They hadn’t closed the drapes before they went to bed, and now she glances out the front window to the landscape below. Everything is covered in sparkling ice. It’s beautiful, as if the world is coated in diamonds. The branches of the huge tree in the front yard are bent, weighted down with ice. She sees where one of them has broken off; there’s a large, pale gash where it has been ripped from the trunk. The heavy limb lies broken in three separate pieces on the ground below.
She walks quietly into the bathroom, leaving the door open. She doesn’t want to turn on the light—she doesn’t want to wake Ian. It’s damn cold. She brushes her hair quickly. Her illuminated watch face says it’s just before six. She wonders what time the staff gets up and starts their day.
She glances back at Ian snoring in their bed, only his head showing above the covers. He won’t be up for a while. She opens the door quietly. It’s dark in the corridor; the lights in the wall sconces are out. She slips out and walks down the third‑floor hall to the main stairs in her thick socks. She doesn’t want to wake anyone. She turns toward the staircase to the lobby, wondering how long it will be before she can get a cup of coffee.
Saturday, 6:03 a.m.
Riley wakens suddenly, sitting up abruptly in bed, eyes wide open. She thinks she’s heard a scream—loud and piercing. Her heart is pounding, and she can feel the familiar adrenaline surging through her body. She glances quickly around the dim hotel room and remembers where she is. She turns to the other bed beside her, throwing aside the bedcovers, and is immediately accosted by the cold. Gwen is awake, too, and alert.
“What’s going on?” Gwen says. “I thought I heard something.”
“I don’t know. I heard it, too.”
For a moment they remain perfectly still, listening. They hear a woman’s voice, shouting.
Riley throws her legs over the bed and pulls on her robe against the chill, while Gwen scrambles to do the same, saying, “Wait for me.”
Riley grabs the key as the two of them slip out the door. The third‑floor corridor is unexpectedly dark, and they stop suddenly, disoriented. Riley remembers that she needs to talk to Gwen about last night, but now is not the time. She’s just grateful to have Gwen here with her. She doesn’t know what she would do if anything happened to Gwen.
“The power must be out,” Gwen says.
Riley and Gwen make their way to the grand staircase, barefoot. Holding on to the polished rail, they race down the stairs, as other footsteps can be heard running in the darkened hotel.
Then Riley stops abruptly. The dull light coming in through the front windows illuminates a ghastly sight below her. Dana lies sprawled at the bottom of the stairs, perfectly still, her limbs in an unnatural position beneath her navy satin robe. Her lovely, long dark hair spills all around her, but her face has an unmistakable pallor. She knows immediately that Dana is dead.
Lauren is kneeling on the floor beside her, leaning over her, her hand pressed against Dana’s neck, feeling for a pulse. She looks up at them, stricken. “I just found her.” Her voice is strained.
Riley continues slowly down the stairs until she is standing on the last step, right above the body. She can feel Gwen’s presence behind her, hears her broken sob.
“Was that you who screamed?” Riley asks.
Lauren nods, tearful.
Riley notices Bradley and his father, James, standing nearby. James is staring at the body of the dead woman at the bottom of his staircase, his face slack with shock. Bradley seems unable to look at Dana, staring at Lauren instead as she hovers over the body. Then James moves forward and reaches down hesitantly.
“She’s dead,” Lauren tells him.
He pulls his hand back, almost gratefully.
David hears the scream and jumps out of bed. He throws on a bathrobe, grabs his key, and leaves his room. At the top of the landing he pauses and looks down at the ragged little gathering below. He sees Dana—clearly dead—lying at the foot of the stairs in her bathrobe, Lauren beside her. Riley and Gwen have their backs to him. James is pale and Bradley looks suddenly much younger than he did last night. David hears a noise above him, glances up quickly, and sees Henry and Beverly coming behind him, also still in their pajamas, drawing their robes closed and tying them shut.
“What happened?” David says, hurrying down the stairs.
“We don’t know,” James says, his voice shaking. “It looks like she fell down the stairs.”
David comes closer.
“I couldn’t find a pulse,” Lauren says.
David squats down and studies the body without touching it, a grimness taking hold of him. Finally he says, “She’s been dead for a while. She must have fallen in the middle of the night.” He wonders aloud, “Why would she have been out of her room?” He’s noted the terrible gash on the side of her head, the blood on the edge of the bottom step. He takes it all in with a practiced eye, and feels unaccountably weary.
“Dear God,” Beverly whispers. “That poor girl.”
David looks up at the rest of them. Beverly has turned her face away, but Henry is staring solemnly at the body. David glances at Gwen— her face is tearstained, and her lower lip is trembling. He longs to comfort her, but he doesn’t. Riley’s staring at the dead woman as if she can’t tear her eyes away. He notices then that Matthew is missing.
“Someone has to tell Matthew,” he says, his heart sinking, knowing it will probably be him. He takes one more look at James and then at all the stricken faces now staring back at him as they remember Matthew. “I’ll do it.” Standing up, he adds, “We’d better call the police.”
“We can’t,” James says harshly. “The power’s out. And the phone. We can’t contact the police.”
“Then someone has to go get them,” David says.
“How?” Bradley asks. “Look outside. Everything is a sheet of ice.”
James shakes his head slowly. “The power lines must be down because of the ice storm. It’s hazardous out there. Nobody’s going anywhere.” He adds, his voice taking on an uncertain note, “It’s probably going to be a while before the police can get here.”
Candice’s alarm on her cell phone is set to go off promptly every morning at six thirty. She’s nothing if not disciplined. She is a light sleeper, however, and this morning, something wakes her before the alarm sounds. She’s not sure what. She hears footsteps running along the hall below her, raised voices.
She decides she’d better get up. Plus it’s goddamn cold. She flicks the light switch of the lamp on her bedside table, but it doesn’t go on. It’s very dark in the room. She crosses the floor, shivering in bare feet, to open the drapes to let in some light. She’s surprised by what she sees. Not the fluffy winter wonderland of last night— but the unleashed fury of an ice storm. Obviously the power is out. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. She wonders how much battery she’s got left in her laptop. Maybe five hours, max. This is a disaster! She needs to find out when the power’s going back on.
She quickly pulls on some warm clothes and heads cautiously downstairs in the dark.
As she rounds the landing and sees down the stairs into the lobby she stops abruptly. There’s a cluster of people at the bottom of the stairs and they all glance up toward her. Every one of their faces is drawn and uneasy. And then she sees why. There’s a woman lying at the bottom of the stairs, so still that she is clearly dead. It’s Dana Hart. The attorney is standing over her, his face serious. There’s no sign of Matthew.
David has volunteered to break the terrible news to Matthew, who as far as they know is still up in his room. Properly speaking, he supposes that it’s the duty of the owner of the hotel to inform Matthew. But James doesn’t look up to the task. This is what David tells himself as he treads back up. James accompanies him, obviously grateful that the attorney has offered. The others remain behind, standing in place, dumbly watching their quiet progress up the stairs.
“Which room is it?” David asks.
“Room 201,” James tells him in a distraught voice.
They stop outside the door. David pauses, preparing himself. He listens for any sounds within. But he hears nothing. He lifts his hand and knocks firmly.
There’s no response. David glances at James, who appears even more anxious. David knocks again, harder this time. He’s beginning to think about having James go fetch the key when he hears movement within. Finally the door swings open and David is face‑to‑face with the man he met over cocktails the night before. David suddenly feels a terrible pity for him. Matthew still looks half asleep. He’s clumsily pulling on a bathrobe.
“Yes?” he says, obviously surprised to find them at his door. Then he glances over his shoulder at the bed he’s just gotten out of, as if he’s missing something. He turns back and looks David in the eye and it registers all at once. Matthew’s eyes sharpen. “What is it?” He looks from David, to the visibly upset James, and back to the attorney. “What’s happened? Where’s Dana?”
“I’m afraid there’s been an accident,” David says, in his professional voice.
“What?” Matthew is clearly alarmed now.
“I’m so sorry,” David says quietly.
“Has something happened to Dana?” Matthew’s voice is full of panic.
“She’s fallen down the stairs,” David says.
“Is she okay?” But his face has gone white.
David shakes his head somberly and says the dreaded words again. “I’m so sorry.”
Matthew gasps, “I don’t believe it!” He looks ghastly. “I want to see her!”
There’s nothing to be done. He must see her. David leads him down to the landing where he stops, respectfully. Dana lies below them like a broken doll, thrown across a room by a petulant child. Matthew sees her, cries out, and stumbles past him in his rush to get to his beloved.
“Don’t touch her,” David advises.
Matthew collapses beside her and begins to sob as the others step back. He ignores David’s warning and strokes her too ‑pale face, runs his thumb along her bloodless lips, in disbelief. Then he buries his face in her neck, his shoulders heaving.
The others look away; it’s unbearable.
Finally, Matthew looks up. “How did this happen?” he cries, half crazed, at David, who has descended the stairs and has stopped above him on the second step. “Why would she even be out of our room?”
“You didn’t hear her go?” David asks.
Matthew shakes his head slowly in shock and misery. “No. I was asleep. I didn’t hear anything.”
He covers his face with both hands and weeps wretchedly.
Bradley fetches a white sheet and they all stand by somberly as he and David settle it gently over Dana’s inert form.
Reading Group Guide
1. Reviewers often say this book is reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s novels. Have you read Christie’s work, and if so, do you see the connection between the two? In what ways are they similar? In what ways do the works differ?
2. Gwen and Riley have a unique dynamic—they’re close friends, and yet there are many things left unsaid between them—a result of time and different paths chosen. How did you understand this relationship? Why do you think their connection is so palpably tense?
3. Riley, Ian, Gwen, Matthew, Candice, Bradley, David, and Henry are just some of the characters in the novel. Which character did you connect with the most? Whom did you sympathize with?
4. After Dana is found dead, the other guests quickly jump to conclusions about what happened. What did you think had occurred, and were you correct?
5. As the body count rises, paranoia sets in. Was there anyone whom you didn’t suspect as the murderer? Why or why not?
6. It takes the police some time to arrive because of the extreme weather conditions, and even then, their ability to investigate is hampered by the time they’ve lost. Do you think they should have done anything differently? Explain.
7. Throughout the latter half of the novel, the characters constantly accuse each other, testing theories of who knew what and when. Ultimately, it comes down to Dana and Lauren and the secrets they shared. If Dana hadn’t died, do you think their shared history would have emerged? If so, how would the rest of the guests been affected?
8. What was your reaction to the last few lines of the novel? Did you see the twist coming?
9. What does An Unwanted Guest say about the dark side of human nature versus the veneer of civility and the masks that we all wear? How are the characters in the novel a microcosm of the larger world?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
l couldn't wait to finish the book and find out "who done it" fun characters and well written
The author does a great job of creating a riveting story with a great mix of Agatha Christi and Alfred Hitchock style mystery and suspense.
Awesome book! Would be a great read around Halloween! Scary and keeps you on edge! Just what I like.
I couldn't put this one down. It kept me in suspense and guessing through the entire book!
I found this book to be a real yawner. It didn’t hold my attention and I really had to power through it to finish the book. Disappointing. I found her first book, The Couple Next Door, a pretty good read.
Loved the suspense!
An Unwanted Guest ... This is the first book I've read by this author. She is excellent and I plan on ordering all her past books and any new coming books. This book made you pick it up constantly to see what is going on. On of the best authors out there. Read this book - you definitely won't be bored :)
Love all Shari Lapena books, but this one was by far my favorite! This scary murderous pageturner made me sleep with the light on.
I liked this story, I thought the characters were interesting, especially when we got into their backgrounds. There was a killer among them and they can't trust anyone. Reading about their reactions as people start turning up dead was good, some more concerned than others. It had a bit of a twist at the end which I liked too!
I was so excited to read this book when I found out it was similar to And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. That has always been my favourite book. It is similar to that story in the way that a group of people are stranded for a couple of days, and someone starts murdering them. However, it doesn’t have the same ending. There was a little twist at the end which I loved! This is the perfect book for a cold winter night. It was a fun mystery, but terrifying to imagine being part of it. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I was late to the Shari Lapena party for her first two novels, I made sure not to make that mistake again with this one. And this one turned out to be just as good as the others. An Unwanted Guest is just as chilling as the place the book is set! The guests that have checked into Mitchell's Inn for the weekend cannot be more different. There's some there for a romantic getaway, some there to escape the world, and some there to write their next best-seller. But once the weather turns nasty and shuts off the power, and no one can go in or out, strange things start happening. A guest turns up dead and it looks like an accident.... But then another guest turns up dead as well.......... In this chilling tale, the guests can only hope that the killer isn't the person sitting next to them. I normally listen to Lapena's book via audio, but I just so happened to have an e-ARC of this one, so I was super glad I actually got to READ it with my eyes. Keeping track of all the characters was a bit hard, but actually reading it helped alot. Had I been listening to it, I probably wouldn't have finished it. But once I got into the rhythm and recognized who was who, the read was easy to get lost in. As for the plot, it moved really quickly. It was a little difficult to keep track of all the back stories that were going on between the characters, but once I got used to the characters, it was a lot faster to wade through. And with it being only 290 pages, it didn't take long once I got through the difficult parts. I loved the ending because it was not expected. I didn't figure it out at all. I don't think I ever suspected that person either. Lapena crafted a tale that made me question EVERYONE and I still didn't guess correctly. This is one of the best kind of thrillers. She made me question everyone without having all the suspects being super drunk and not able to remember anything. I would recommend this to anyone fed up with drunk characters in adult thrillers like me. Shari Lapena is one of my favorite adult authors and I can't wait to see what other things she has in mind. I waited for this book for a long time, so I'm a little disappointed that it was only 290 pages. Now I have to wait for the next wild ride through her mind!
Gwen is taking her friend, Riley, to a small, luxury hotel in the Catskills called Mitchell’s Inn. Riley is a journalist who was in Afghanistan for years and is suffering from PTSD. Gwen is hoping that a few days of rest and relaxation will help her. The weather is very bad and it’s snowing heavily making driving difficult. When they end up in a ditch, another couple, Lauren and Ian, who are also heading up to the Inn, see the car in the ditch, stop, pick them up and take them up with them. Beverly and her husband, Henry are at the Inn where she hopes to work on their failing marriage. Dana and Matthew are at the Inn to take a few days of rest before their huge wedding. Candice is an author who has come to the Inn for a few quiet days where she can work on her novel. David is a criminal defense attorney who needs a few days of peace and quiet. At the Inn, the guests are welcomed by the owner, James, and his son, Bradley. Due to the bad weather, some guests have cancelled and some of the staff are unable to get in, but James and Bradley promise them a nice time anyway. The rooms are lovely and well-appointed. The Inn is spacious, but also small enough to be very cozy, as well as being a bit old fashioned and no cell service. As the weather worsens, the Inn loses power. Then, a body is found at the bottom of the stairs and it doesn’t look like it was accidental fall. It looks like murder. The guests are becoming nervous and when yet another body is found, all of them are looking over their shoulders wondering if there is a murderer among them. What a fabulous book. I ate it up in one evening and found myself looking over my shoulder too. This is fabulously creepy and a really good story. I have tried to set the stage with my review with no spoilers added. So, I hope readers will grab this book and enjoy one of the best thriller/mystery stories ever. Shari Lapena is a terrific author and I enjoy her books. I borrowed this book from my local library because the publisher declined my request to read/review it on NetGalley.
Great read. Love her books.
If I could describe this book in one blurb, it would be to say that reading it is like the game of Clue coming to life for your enjoyment. While trapped by a snow storm at a remote mountain lodge, a group of strangers find themselves having to reluctantly work together to stay alive when one by one they start dying in strange and questionable ways. Is one of them a murderer? Or is someone else hiding in the lodge and playing with them? I completely devoured this book. I read it in one (very fast) sitting. I found it to be so easy to read, I fell immediately into the premise, the characters and the style of writing. I love how Shari Lapena moved from character to character, letting the plot unravel itself slowly with little clues at a time. This is one of the most fast paced books I have read this year, and sometimes that is EXACTLY what I need. It was entertaining, creative and let me shut off my brain for a couple of hours. This makes for a perfect winter night read - grab a drink and a blanket and dive right in.
I started reading An Unwanted Guest on 11/3/18 and finished it on 11/17/18 at 3:36am. This book is an excellent read! I love how the story slowly reveals each person having a secret they want to keep hidden but at the same time very much wanting to unravel their peers' secrets. I enjoy reading each character's personal thoughts a lot. Lauren likes to size up other guests and right away decide who she likes and dislikes. Candace pays close attention to people's demeanor and Beverly notices body language when others don't realize. Many characters seems to be very observant, like David saying he can tell when someone lies. This book is told in the third person point of view following Gwen Delaney as she maneuvers the country road to the hotel for an uninterrupted getaway with her friend. Another view is Riley Shuter, a friend of Gwen where they went to journalism school together who just came back from Afghanistan. The third view is David Paley, top criminal defense attorney who arrives at the hotel to try to relax for the weekend, a rare downtime. The fourth view is Lauren Day driving with Ian Beeton when they spot a car on the side of the road and stopping to help. They see there are two women inside the car. The fifth view is Beverly Sullivan who is here with her husband to work on their marriage. The sixth view is Henry Sullivan who recognizes that he no longer loves his wife and doesn't know what to do about it. The seventh view is Dana Hart, beautiful, who is recently engaged and is on this trip with him. The eighth view is Mathew Hutchinson, Dana's fiancé and heir to a large fortune. The ninth view is Candace White and she's writing a book. The tenth view is James, hotel owner and the eleventh view is Bradley, hotel owner's son. They all are staying at Mitchell's Inn, family owned hotel, in the middle of a winter storm for a weekend getaway to forget about work and unhappiness in their lives. The twelfth view is Sergeant Sorensen, investigating the crimes. The multiple point of views are switching off within the chapter. This book is organized by a time line for the weekend starting Friday night. An Unwanted Guest is very well written and a fast paced read! The story started out similar to Agatha Christi's And Then There Were None with many characters to keep up. Not very original in my opinion, but I still enjoyed the read nonetheless. Each character has the potential to be the killer and I like that I couldn't guess who it was. I love that twist at the end. This is my first read from the author but it won't be the last. I highly recommend everyone to read this book! Pro: fast paced, page turner, hotel, observant characters Con: not an original start to the story I rate it 5 stars! ***Disclaimer: Many thanks to the author Shari Lapena, publisher Penguin, and Edelweiss for the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest. xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details
I loved Lapena's first two books, but there was something about this book that was just not as satisfying. Sure I didn't see the ending coming, but at the beginning of the book there were just so many characters that I had to keep going back and remember who each character was. This is why I am only giving it 3 stars.
Great book! Couldn’t put it down!!!!
Entralling thriller that keeps you sucked in and wanting more! I Read almost the whole book in one night and around 230am finally had to put it down so I wasn't completely miserable at work the next day. With my imagination running wild from the book, I convinced myself I was going to be murdered that night (queue sleeping with the lights on and snuggling with my dog). Unexpected ending and my favorite of her three books I've read!
If you love a good Agatha Christie story, this book is for you! I could not put this down. It was excellent from start to finish. Characters were well developed. I couldn't predict what was coming next and I loved that about this story. Clear your schedule, you will want time to finish this one because it will pull you in right away!
Well written, could not put the book down.
Great book - can't put it down - reminds me a little bit of Agatha Christie