Southern Gothic Feel, The Perfect Guests Is Languid Thriller for Winter Nights

The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous | Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group | Genre: Mystery-Thriller | Find it on: Goodreads | Publishing: 12 January 2021

Beth Soames is thrilled to move out of the children’s home and into Raven Hall with a family that seems thrilled to have her. The Averells want a companion for their daughter, Nina, and Nina is just as thrilled to find a sister in Beth. But then the Averells start asking Beth to play a game, dressing up as Nina and proclaiming her love for Raven Hall whenever a certain guest comes to visit.

30 years later, Sadie Langton is also offered to play a role in a game at Raven Hall, but Sadie is an actress and the game is a murder mystery. It seems like a dream job and the chance to have a little fun. But Sadie soon learns there’s no such thing as an innocent game at Raven Hall–just as Beth did when it had been her turn to play.

The Perfect Guests is a mystery that feels like a southern gothic reminiscence on home, and what it means when the grandeur of home starts to fade along with the splendor (and money) of previous generations. Raven Hall isn’t just a building, it’s a monument to the family that built it, and as it begins to crumble so do the people who claim it as their own.

Rous weaves each of the three narrators together to create three distinct but connected stories (and mysteries) as the book goes on, with Raven Hall a looming central character. While never slow, the first two-thirds of the book are much denser. Rous spends time languishing in descriptions of characters and landscapes in a way that makes the reader feel as though Raven Hall were their home as well. It’s prose you can relax in to as it pulls you along on a dark, twisted, and decades long journey.

The last third of the book, however, moves the reader downhill faster than I (personally) was comfortable with after the languid journey before. Loose ends are tied up completely and, in some cases, without much explanation. Secrets are simply revealed, stated, and tossed around as the book rushes to a conclusion I wasn’t quite ready for. The break-neck speed at which the book reaches all its conclusions left me feeling reader’s whip-lash. I would have loved to see a slower, more labored ending that matched the book’s languid start.

Overall, still a remarkable read for the winter season. One that should be enjoyed with a hot drink in front of smokey, wood-burning fireplace.

Similar to: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read it? Adding it to your TBR? Disagree?  Let’s talk in the comments!

*Thanks to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for the review copy!*

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