Helen Cooper ~ The Other Guest
One year ago, Leah’s feisty 21-year-old niece, Amy, mysteriously drowned in the beautiful lake near her family-owned resort in Northern Italy. Now, Leah’s grief has caught up with her, and she decides to return to Lake Garda for the first time since Amy’s death. What she finds upon her arrival shocks her—her sister, brother-in-law, and surviving niece, Olivia, seem to have erased all memories of Amy, and fought to have her death declared an accidental drowning, despite murky circumstances. Leah knows she must look beyond the resort’s beautiful façade and uncover what truly happened to Amy, even if her digging places both her family ties and her very life in danger.
Meanwhile, in Central England, thirtysomething Joanna is recovering from a surprising break-up when she is swept off her feet by a handsome bartender. But when she learns that he is on the run from something in his past, and that their meeting may not have been a coincidence, Joanna realized that he may just a bit too good to be true.
Helen Cooper always keeps you guessing. This is because there are always a lot of characters involved and information is only gradually released… Naturally she lets us guess a few things and feel smug about it, but there’s always a little extra that throws you, although this is usually not the final reveal.
The Other Guest hooked me immediately, as I love islands with mystery and intrigue. Desolate yet claustrophobic, they’re an ideal place for dead bodies.
One year ago, Amy drowned in the lake during a storm. Despite a verdict of accidental death, there are still questions to ask and – as usual – women put themselves in danger to try and answer them.
The three POVs worked well, showing us Amy’s versions of events, as well as the current situation, so that we have the bigger picture. Despite clear narrative, it was tricky to understand the characters as there were a fair few of them and we just didn’t have enough time to get to know them.
And of course I was worried about the cat. I am always worried about the cat.
It’s quite atmospheric, with the storm and the scenery, but it’s less of a thriller than Helen’s previous book The Downstairs Neighbour, perhaps due to its slower pace. This felt more like a family drama, as it looked at how people deal with grief. All the characters are grieving, but their reactions are very different. It also touches on reputation, family and parenting and how far each of us will go to protect the people we love.
Well-written and gripping, the ending is satisfactory (although more repercussions could have been given). Overall an enjoyable read and I look forward to Helen’s next book.
Thanks to the author and Hodder & Stoughton for my advanced copy. Opinions my own.