The Perfect Guests
The Perfect Guests
by Emma Rous
Published January 12, 2021
by Berkley Books
Rating: 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Mystery/Thriller, Drama
1988: Beth, a young orphan, is surprised when her aunt brings her to stay with the Averells at their sprawling estate, Raven Hall. The Averells have a daughter, Nina, who is in need of a companion and it is decided Beth would be a perfect fit. At first, staying with the Averells is a dream come true. Beth and Nina get along great and have a lake and endless land to occupy their days. But when Nina repeatedly gets ill and Beth is put in morally compromising positions time and time again by the Averells, she begins to suspect something is amiss at Raven Hall.
2019: Sadie is a twenty-something, struggling actress hoping for a break and scrambling to make her next monthly rent payment. When a great paying job comes her way and doesn’t even require an audition, it feels almost too good to be true. Sadie is whisked away to Raven Hall for a weekend where she will be expected to play Miss Lamb in a murder mystery for a new company trying to get the program off the ground. Once at Raven Hall, Sadie begins to fear for her safety when it becomes apparent that everyone is getting ill and the small group of participants are apparently trapped at the estate without access to a car, cell service, or any landlines.
The novel also follows a third, unidentified narrator on an unspecified timeline. This mystery narrator had previously resided at Raven Hall when tragedy struck and she was forced to move. Now, she spends her weekends circling the property, waiting to get a glimpse at the new owners and to reclaim what she feels is rightfully hers.
What did you love about The Perfect Guests?
Chelsey: This novel kept me on the edge of my seat and I loved the alternating narrators and timelines. I was particularly drawn to Beth’s story and the writing transported me to lazy summer days on the lake with friends. I really liked that the foreboding feeling wasn’t overdone but offered a darkness to the otherwise idyllic setting.
Patricia: “You are cordially invited to play a Game at Raven Hall.”
As soon as I read those opening words, I got a chill down my spine, and I knew I was ready to settle in for a thrilling read!
Rous intricately weaves the lives of the 1988 occupants of Raven Hall with the lives of the guests who have been invited to the mansion in 2019 – although each of the guests is unaware of their role in the game.
Stephanie: I have so many thoughts and feelings racing through my mind and I don’t even know where to begin! I suppose I should start by saying The Perfect Guests gets 5 massive stars from me! Emma Rous’ writing flows so well and I just love how smooth and captivating it is! I can’t wait to read more from her!
What was your opinion of the multiple story- and timelines as well as all the major twists?
Stephanie: My hand flew to cover my mouth so many times throughout the book that I lost count. 🙊 I would probably characterize it as a mystery drama rather than a thriller. The pages certainly reached out and grabbed me from the beginning through the very end. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and I just had to know what happened next!
Patricia: In the multiple timelines the book reveals, Raven Hall has the gothic quality that immediately draws you in because you just know there will be secrets. And there is more than one game being played!
I was impressed with how well the author managed to tie in all of the characters as she revealed their secrets one by one, with lots of twists and turns along the way.
Chelsey: Though I didn’t connect with Sadie’s character or storyline as much as Beth’s, I did love the murder mystery premise. I also liked that her storyline didn’t play out the way I would have expected as it made it a more exciting read.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, though the many twists felt a bit over the top and theatrical. I would have preferred one or two strong “WOW” moments, rather than the many unrealistic twists. Having so many big moments took away some of the shock value and just felt like too much for me by the end. That being said, the twists did work well for the storyline, many of them were entirely unpredictable, and everything tied together and was wrapped up nicely.
Patricia: Five huge stars!! Bonus – the end material contains a great history of the Fens, the setting for the book, and includes a book club study guide.
Chelsey: Four stars!!! If you enjoy a novel with multiple narrators and timelines, a strong sense of foreboding, and lots of twists, this one is definitely for you!!
Stephanie: Five massive stars from me! I definitely recommend this one! It’s up there in my favorite books of the year!
Our reviewers would also like to thank Berkley and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this excellent novel.