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January 14, 2021

Emma Rous's New Mystery THE PERFECT GUESTS is Full of Suprises

by Donna Huber

I felt like a needed something different to read after reading a lot of cozy mysteries and WWII fiction. I tought The Perfect Guests would be the perfect choice as it is different than what I've been reading but in a genre that I enjoy (and haven't read much of recently). It looked like it would be a good mystery that could get dark and twisty. I'm happy to say that it was indeed a great palate cleanser.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Perfect Guests
January 2021; Berkley; 978-0593201602
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); mystery
This is my first book by Emma Rous, but having read Susan's review of her debut novel The Au Pair I knew she was an author I wanted to try.

I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting myself into when I started the novel. I wasn't sure if the story would take a turn towards a dark psychological thriller (like DJ Palmer or Karen Rose) or be more of a twisty mystery plot (like Paige Shelton). I was hoping more for the later because I don't think I could handle second-hand stress caused by fictional characters right now. Thankfully it was more of a mystery with some sinister tones. It was just the kind of novel I was looking for.

There are two stated timelines, one in the later 1980s involving two teenagers living at Raven Hall and one in 2019 where a murder mystery weekend is planned at Raven Hall. There is another timeline and at first, it isn't evident when it is taking place, but involves a woman who feels Raven Hall has been "stolen" from her (it was sold).

I've attended a murder mystery dinner and have always that a murder mystery weekend would be fun. However, in fiction, these events are rarely fun as something more sinister lays beneath the pretense. It is no different for the weekend in The Perfect Guests. But it isn't obvious who is in danger and who is pulling the strings. I liked Sadie, the main character of the 2019 timeline, right from the start. She's kind of young and still trying to figure out what to do with her life but I really felt like she was trying. So when she is invited to play a role in a dry run of the murder mystery weekend I kind of hoped that it was start of things going her way.

I also really liked the characters in the 1980s timeline. It focuses on two teenage girls but they weren't the annoying, childish type of teenagers. I felt sorry for them. Nina, the daughter of the owners of Raven Hall, is lonely and doesn't have much of a life as she isn't allowed to go into the village or attend school. Beth has been living in a children's home since her parents and brother died in a car accident and her only living relative doesn't really want her. When her aunt arranges for her to stay the summer at Raven Hall as a companion to Nina she experiences what living in a real family again. Yet, she knows that things are strange but she doesn't want to rock the boat. She hopes perhaps she can continue living with this family.

It is the third plotline that I'm not sure how I feel about. It pops up in the 2019 chapters. It's written in italics so you know it is separate from that timeline. It does allow for the reader to question when and who (no names are used at first) for this plotline, but I think I would have still had those questions had it been in separate chapters. As it was I was left a bit confused after the first couple of switches to it as I tried to fit it into the 2019 timeline.

I liked to see how all the pieces fit together. Even when you think you have the different threads untangled, Rous throws in another surprise. It was definitely a very satisfying read. If you are looking for a suspenseful mystery that isn't too dark, then The Perfect Guests is the perfect book to pick up.

Buy The Perfect Guests at Amazon
Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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