Title: The Perfect Guests
Author: Emma Rous
Publisher: Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
Publish Date January 2021
Available at: Amazon, Barnes, and Noble; publisher, local bookstores
Rating: 5 bookmarks
Emma Rous writes a story about the intertwining family of Beth, Nina, Leonora, Markus, Hendrik, Dr. Sawyer, Jonas, Caroline and Sadie. It started when Leonora’s father lost his estate and committed suicide, leaving his daughter and family to survive independently. Their attorney, Hendrik, offered to buy the estate to give him some financial stability until he could get back on his feet. He, Leonora’s father, refused. She never forgave the attorney for his apparent role in the death of her father. Fast forward, a new family now lives and owns the estate her family lost. They were interlopers. Enter: Caroline, Markus, and Hendrik. Not knowing who he was when she first met him, Leonora thought Markus was a nice man. The two hit it off. Soon she was stealing away to meet him at his flat. Then he broke it off with Caroline and married Leonora. His father wasn’t happy. Along came Nina. The three lived at the estate her father lost many years ago. Her circle was complete until his father, Hendrik, came back around. She was terrified that he would want to sell the estate and kick her off and out of her home.
Enter Beth. Unbeknownst to Leonora, Caroline, the former girlfriend of Markus, was pregnant. She quietly gave birth to Nina and gave her daughter to her aunt, Caroline’s sister, to raise. A tragedy befell that family when the family she grew up with died in a car accident. Nina went into a home until Caroline picked her up to bring her to Leonora, Markus, and Nina lived. Not knowing what would happen there, Beth was glad of a family to be a part of but longer for her aunt. Then Leonora and Markus requested an odd thing from her. She, Beth, had to impersonate Nine, Leonora’s daughter, in front of Markus’s father, her grandfather, during his visits. He talked about taking Nina back to England with them, and Nina didn’t want to go. So this was to protect Nina and not stress her out. Initially, it was because Nina had fallen inextricably and unexplainably ill. After the visit was over, she miraculously recovered. And so it continued for each subsequent visit.
During one of those visits, Beth began to suspect that Nina was being poisoned by someone at the house-she suspected Leonora. Voicing her fears and suspicions to Nina did not have the desired effect. Nina set fire to the house.
While all of this was going on, Beth and Jonas seem to have begun to have feelings for each other and had fallen in love. But Beth felt obligated to not act on those feelings as it would jeopardize her position and place at the estate. This pissed off Jonas, but he still wanted to be with her. So angry though he was, he continued to see her. That is until the fire where Markus died by drowning.
The new owners of the estate have scheduled a murder mystery weekend for a few guests. Sadie, who was in the midst of looking for the job, got asked for by name due to her being an actor. So Sadie and Nazleen- Lady Nightingale, Joe, Miss Genevieve Lamb/Mouse, Colonel Otter, Professor Everett Owl, and Zach. The deceased for the event was Lord Nightingale, who was murdered by one of the other guests. The game afoot-determine which one of the guests is guilty of murder. Throughout the first evening- the scene will be laid to give the guests information to determine who the killer is. Mrs. Shrew is the maid and housekeeper. Through dinner, Sadie observed the guests and read the little cards that had the information written on them to help her and the others solve the murder. However, she was unsettled because it seemed to be a little too personal. After a while, Lady Nightingale retired, claiming she was ill. Some of the other guests, including Sadie, also weren’t feeling well. Miss Lamb/Mouse went outside to smoke. None of the guests could get a signal. Upon the groups retiring to bed, all were uneasy, and some weren’t feeling well. None knew where Ms. Lamb/Mouse was and was concerned, but we’re hopeful she went into town.
Meanwhile, Sadie’s mother, who was away on a retreat for her mind’s sanity, rushed back to be with her daughter when she found out where she had gone to for the job. Beth’s only concern was that something bad would happen, and it all involved the estate of the Averall’s.
At sometime during the night, a fire was set inside the house. But the fire alone wasn’t the danger. The fire was placed on their only escape route out-the stairwell. All the windows in each of the rooms the guests were in were nailed shut. Some cool thinking and ingenuity saved them from burning on the top level, and they managed to get to Mrs. Shrew. You know what woke them all up? Sadie’s mother was outside her window, warning her of the fire.
When all were assembled outside, Sadie’s mother, Beth, recognized Leonora and Nina. She also recognized Joe and his father. She was horrified at the story that poured out of Nina-who was responsible for both fires being set. All because her Mom loved the estate more than her own daughter. Because Beth was the true family of Markus. Because her true father, the doctor, felt sad at the loss of life. Once she was found safe to be tried for attempted murder, she was.
Beth, Sadie, Joe, Caroline, and Hendrik began a new chapter in their lives as a family. Although Caroline didn’t have much to do with her daughter, Beth and Sadie had the relationship of family and strength, and she finally got to marry Joe.
I gave this novel five bookmarks. It was well worth the read. When I started it, I was like, oh all right, it’s like Clue-then House on a Haunted Hill- if you survive the weekend, you win a lot of money. But as it went on and it kept flipping back and forth between the past and the present, I began to think that the past had a lot more to do with the present circumstances than people knew. Consider Lord Nightingale was murdered by one of the guests. Sadie’s mother got blamed for the fire being set a long time ago on the same night that Markus perished by going after Nina and her on the precarious ice. Consider that Nina’s mother tried to poison her daughter to keep from being found out by her father in law about Nina’s parentage. That was Caroline’s secret. All the interconnections come out as you read, but the story about the murder isn’t really murder. Markus died by falling through the ice going after both his real daughters. Whether or not he fathered Nina didn’t matter as he considered her his daughter. The relationship that developed between Beth and Jonas was not expected, but Beth did not want to hurt Nina. She felt that they were sisters. But that feeling wasn’t enough for Nina to not attempt to burn Beth and her family to death in retaliation for being told her mother tried to poison her to prevent her from meeting her grandfather. Once the family moved from the estate, and she met her true father, she finally understood why. Did she forgive her mother? I think she came to understand her. But both Leonora and Nina lost a lot in the years following the tragic death of Markus.
The set up for the murder mystery weekend is excellent, as well as the scenery. It is in some drafty old estate with a sad, tragic history. The family is still considered to be one that people don’t talk too much about. The little cards were a touch of genius. Although they were to lay the important facts about each character to help solve the crime, Sadie thought hers were too personal, as if the person knew her life story. She felt that someone else had to have the same feeling. But it wasn’t until her mother showed up and Joe recognized her that the pieces made sense.
This story will have you following its every turn and every connection until the very end.
I recommend that you buy this book.
Enjoy the read!