Release date: 06.03.2020
Quick take: Another satisfying, twisty and quick (fast-paced) read from Edwards
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: I have always enjoyed Mark Edwards novels, so I was very excited to delve into The House Guest. The premise was intriguing and different from anything I’d read before – two house sitters are surprised when a friend of the homeowners shows up at the door, unaware that the owners are on an extended vacation. Do they invite her in, or do they turn her away…and how does their decision change all of their lives forever?
Adam (the protagonist who tells us the story in the first person in his chapters) and his girlfriend Ruth are house-sitting in New York City for Jake and Mona, two friends they met on an extended cruise. Both Adam and Ruth are British-born and raised, but he is a struggling writer while Ruth is a rising star – an actress who’s moved up from Shakespeare at sea on the aforementioned cruise, to the lead role in a Broadway play. The timing of the role is kismet, as it comes when both Jake and Mona will be out of the country on a retreat and will need a house-sitter to watch over their very expensive home in Brooklyn. The English couple jump at the chance to have a place to stay while Ruth attends rehearsal and Adam works on his fledgling writing project.
The two are surprised when Eden shows up at the door in the middle of a terrible rainstorm, cashing in a favor she says Mona & Jake owe her. She’s impulsively fled a nasty breakup in California and came to take them up on their offer of a place to stay on the East Coast, but she’s bitterly disappointed to find out that they’re not home. Ruth and Adam – clearly softer than the stereotypical jaded New Yorkers who surround them in the city – invite her in and offer her a room. Any friend of Jake and Mona is a friend of theirs, right?
But Eden isn’t a typical California girl, and quickly starts to insert herself into Ruth & Adam’s lives. It culminates when one night of drinking and unusually open conversations leads to the world’s worst hangover….at least for Adam. He awakens upstairs, naked and on the floor of his bedroom, sick and miserable….and alone. Where are Ruth and Eden? Why is his girlfriend not returning his messages or calls? And why did Eden delete the photos she and Adam had taken together in a bar…the only evidence Adam even has of her very existence?
From here the plot gets twisty, in a good way. Adam meets new friends who will help him in his mission to find out where Ruth is, but he also runs into many people who are willing to risk their own lives to silence him forever…and it’s not easy to see which is which. He must fight for his own life more than once, and can he even believe the truth once it’s revealed to him? And for Ruth, whose plight we see in alternating chapters, her own life has changed dramatically and irreversibly…can she regain control to save herself? And…does she even want to?
This book was a fast read; the plot and constant energy kept me reading, and I finished the entire novel in less than 24 hours. With some very popular thriller authors (Ruth Ware, B.A. Paris), I can see a “plot twist” or spot a villain in sheep’s clothing before I crack the 50-page mark…but Edwards somehow always avoids this tell. This story draws from very recent headlines, and any true-crime buff (and crime podcast aficionado) will be nodding their heads at the familiarity conjured up by the characters’ circumstances.
Edwards always writes believable characters with complex emotions and nuanced relationships, and this book is a prime example of this. This book has heart and humor as much as it has murder and mystery, and it’s an excellent read for a rainy night in. I’d recommend this to any thriller fan, especially if you enjoy British mysteries.