In the High Peaks

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Another Satisfying Thriller and Comments Problems--Sorry!

For about 4-5 days I've been having problems with my comments. One I tried to publish, but it didn't post, which has me fretting, because it was a post from Tracy who was sharing information about the terrible wildfires in California. I can copy it "by hand," which I will asap.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine (the authors are actually a team of two sisters) satisfied my thriller soul, yet the ending was not unexpected at all. Lots of critics and commenters mentioned a real twist at the end, but I didn't find it to be so. Still if you long for tales of deep Highsmithingly darkness among the rich and famous, you may enjoy The Last Mrs. Parrish.

My adolescent reader's appetite has barely been whetted, so it was with great delight that this afternoon I downloaded An Unwanted Guest (Penguin Random House summary) by Shari Lapena, (link to her website) available as of today.
This one is delicious--It's set in early winter, in a well-maintained, but old country inn, in the middle of nowhere in the Catskill Mountains in New York State. (The Catskills are a mountain range two+ hours to the south of the Adirondack Mountains.) Of course the weather turns absolutely brutal, when a blizzard-like storm turns into a horrific ice storm. Naturally, the inn is completely cut off--no electricity, no phone, no wifi, no nothing, not even a generator. (Every tourist residence in upstate New York has a generator and this is no historical). But at least they have plenty of food, drink, a library stuffed with books, and oodles of murders. Just perfection for my restive adolescent reader at the moment.)

I'll bet you're saying, "Loads of thrillers and murder mysteries have had this type of setting and premise. Is there nothing new under the sun these days?" And, of course, you're absolutely right.

Then why am I finding this story so compelling? Each guest couple or guest single has their own backstory, which ups the ante. This one has excellent description, so every scene is crystal-clear. And, moreover, this gathering of strangers in a remote place, cut off from civilization, speaks to us. It's a premise that's  done over and over again, because it speaks to us. Strangers coming together in the midst of crisis with no outside resources, with almost no resources, must find a way to survive somehow.

If you will pardon my whimsy for a moment, I am reminded of Snoopy, typing away on the top of his doghouse. Of course, he's writing his first great novel, which begins with the words, "It was a dark and stormy night." The perfect opener.
And did you know that this is the opening sentence to A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle? 

I will sign off for tonight, but for the following postscript from my inner teen.

P.S.If you know of more thrillers or suspense novels that had you on the edge of your bed, or reading chair, please do let me know. I'm dying for more.


  1. You do make this sound good (the part about the guests each having a backstory and the snowed in bit is a bonus) but I don't usually read thrillers and especially more current ones. Maybe when it has been out longer and I can get it at a decent price.

    1. Tracy,
      Even so, An Unwanted Guest is not great literature. It's entertaining, it's a diversion, and if you like the premise, that's an additional benefit. But other writers have probably handled this type of story better. My advice would be to get it out of the library, if it's what you're in the mood for.
      I am enjoying it, though.
      Of course the snowed-in, stranded part is a big plus.
      Tracy, I'm very sorry to say that your other post literally vanished. It upsets me because I figure if people take the time to comment, I do definitely come hell or high water want to publish it. But when I went back the next day to see if I could do it, it was gone.
      California's wildfire news becomes more and more troubling. My heart does go out to you living with this in your state and, I think, hardest of all, is the not knowing the future.

    2. Tracy!
      Just read your blog post about White Sky, Black Ice. I will look this one up for both Ken and me. I like Alaskan settings for mysteries and police procedurals. Thanks!

    3. I highly recommend White Sky, Black Ice, especially if you already know you like Alaskan settings. I am motivated to read more about that state.

    4. Recently I've been drawn to nonfiction articles that detail the sudden and overwhelming effects of the intense climate change that's occurring there.

  2. I love that you're indulging that inner adolescent! Have you read Shelter by Jung Yun? Much darker than my usual fare, but I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

    1. Hi JoAnn,
      Thanks so much for the recommendation. I will search for it. The teen doesn't mind a bit if it's dark or black as pitch.

  3. I'm amazed to see that my library does have the Shari Lapena book so I'll be reading it as it sounds like just what I need at the moment.

    1. I just need to warn you, Katrina. It's not great literature. I am reading her debut novel now, another thriller, The Couple Next Door, which got rave reviews (even from the Washington Post) and was published in 2016. Lapena published another in 2017--The Stranger in the House. And in August 2018, the one I just read, An Unwanted Guest.
      But, given my mood, bottom dollar, I did "enjoy" An Unwanted Guest, although it had some slow places in the middle. Yet one can turn the pages so quickly, it didn't matter. But I can see from what I've read so far that The Couple Next Door is really going places.

  4. Good thrillers: The Woman in the Window, by A.M. Finn, urban setting in Harlem. Very well-written, better than many in the genre.
    And I liked The Perfect Mother. Set In Brooklyn, a baby vanishes. A murder is committed. A mother is framed. Who dunnit?
    Friends of the woman whose child is missing take on finding the culprit.
    And with the blizzard theme of people together in one hotel is Norwegian writer, Anne Holt's, "1222." Very well-done. Clever.
    I read "The Stranger in the House," which was so-so.