Not a Happy Family
reviewed by Fiona Cook
Shari Lapena knows how to write books that thrill. Not A Happy Family is her latest offering, and should appear in the dictionary next to the entry for gripping – this is an excellent, twisty thriller that will absolutely delight suspense fans.
Sheila and Fred Merton are dead. This much we know right from the start – and it’s also clear that if it’s a question of motive, everyone’s got one. Catherine, the eldest, with visions of a perfect home; Dan, middle child forever seeking his father’s approval; Jenna, wild child and youngest in the family, who just can’t seem to settle; and Irena, live-in housekeeper and nanny. They were all in the home on the night Fred and Sheila were killed, and Fred especially had given them all plenty of reasons to want him out of the way.
Right from the very first pages it’s clear that Shari Lapena is taking no prisoners. The story hits the ground running and doesn’t let up – Fred may be a psychopath, may be a narcissist, but either way it’s clear he’s been tormenting the people around him for years. It’s easy for the reader to understand why someone would snap; less easy for the reader to figure out which of those many understandable reasons was the one to finally push someone over the edge.
Luckily for us readers, this is an author who knows how to construct a mystery that’s so much more than just a race to the answers at the end. Along the way we really get to know these characters, all their flaws and strengths – they felt so real by the end of the book. They’re easy to sympathize with, to root for; which only magnifies the worry that one of them might be a killer.
Shari Lapena is already a bestseller, but if you’re not already familiar with her work there’s no better place to jump in. Not a Happy Family will keep you up late, make you question everything, and love every minute.
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