“The Perfect Guests” by Emma Rous

The Perfect Guests

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Berkley
Pub. Date: Jan. 21, 2020

Mysteries are not usually a genre that I am a fan of, but I did enjoy this one. I found “The Perfect Guests” to be a fun read, though I am not sure if the author would appreciate why I enjoyed her tale. (Will get to that later).  The premise of the novel is an updated version of Agatha Christies’ “And Then There Were None,” which is the story of ten strangers, each lured to a party by a mysterious host. As with “None,” each character in “Guests” receives a deliciously suspicious invitation, because the invite is tailored to their personal circumstances and needs, such as an offer of employment. Once the guests have arrived, the host accuses each person of murder, and one by one, the guests, now suspects, go missing and are found murdered.  A difference in the novels is that in “Guests” the dinner invitation makes clear that this will be a murder/mystery-themed party. (Always wanted to be invited to such a party).  So the reader will find themselves smack in the middle of the board game, Clue, right down to the silly character names.  Instead of Mr. Mustard and Professor Plum, in this novel, we meet Professor Owl and a Lord Nightingale.  In reality, the popular strategy board game was a mediocre game at its best, but how can you not be in a light-hearted mood when you are supposed to be someone named Mr. Mustard. Get my point?

In “Guests” there are two storylines, one in the present another in the 1980s. In the present day, Sadie is an unemployed actress who doesn’t have the money for this month’s rent. Then, lo and behold, she is offered a gig to play the character Miss Lamb (my favorite name in the book is Miss Mouse) in a murder mystery-themed dinner party. The party takes place at the newly restored gothic-like old mansion—tick-tock—named Raven Hall. In the past, we meet Markus, Lenora, and their teenage daughter Nina. They are living in Raven Hall during the house’s glory days. For reasons that truly do not make sense to the reader, they invite fifteen-year-old Beth, who they found in a home for orphans, to live with them as a companion for Nina.  Even Beth wonders why fourteen-year-old Nina needs a “playmate.” But that is one of the author’s many twists. It does seem that Rous throws  just about every far-fetched murder-mystery twist that has ever been written into her novel.

During the present day game/dinner party, all questions from the past are pieced together. The writing during the party scenes has a campy vibe. I do not think that this was the author’s intention; nevertheless, it worked.  If you are as old as I am, you may remember the Carol Brunette Show where they spoofed soap operas and films. These sketches were notorious for overusing loud organ music when something sinister was about to happen in whatever production they were recreating.  Well, that is how I read this novel, as a parody.  I could almost hear the creepy organ pipes. In hindsight, I probably enjoyed this novel because I went in not expecting an Agatha Christie superior style of writing. Still, Rous’ style is entertaining.  And to be fair, I did not guess every single twist.  So, if you are in the mood for a light murder mystery, I suggest you give this one a try.  And, if you are in a party mood, read it with a friend while dressed up in Clue board game character costumes, and see who can figure out who the murderer is first.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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