Overall rating: 4/5
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Domestic Fiction
Read if you loved: The Guest List by Lucy Foley, The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine, Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Content warnings: murder, pedophilia
Charlie and Matthew are the instagram perfect couple. They are wealthy, successful, and doting fathers to their loving son, Titus. Enter Rachel – an ambitious and calculating woman who arrives in London with her own motives, and slips seamlessly into their lives. So, when a routine family dinner ends with a kitchen knife in Matthew’s chest, and Rachel confesses to the crime, it appears that the answers were right there in front of them. But the murder is hardly the tug needed for the finely woven cloak of their lives to unravel, and there is so much more that what meets the eye. I always approach whodunit narratives with a sense of skepticism due to how formulaic they can be, but at its crux, this book is more than that – it’s an intriguing psychological piece that kept me up and reading through the night, fascinated by questions that I did not know existed.
The book wastes no time jumping into the core of the mystery – who killed Matthew? It is instantly gripping, and Walter’s effortless creation of suspense and tension makes it near impossible to put the book down. It had all the elements that I love in a good mystery – a dual timeline (with specific months to help you keep track!), multiple perspectives, and unreliable narrators. Readers are often led through the same scene through the lens of different characters, creating this enthralling push-and-pull between perception and reality, and driving forth a sense of uncertainty that permeates the story throughout. The pacing was also just right – each time I found myself becoming impatient, there was a new nugget of information dropped into the story. But what I enjoyed the most were the psychological developments that the characters undergo. Each individual is complex and sets out on a massive character arc, and their subsequent mental deterioration is done *so* well. Walter does an incredible job of dissecting the often messy overlap between motivations and character development.
As much as I thoroughly enjoyed this book, there were some elements of the mystery itself that fell short of my expectations. Some of the major plot developments did not make sense, and felt forced in order to push the mystery forward as needed. The grand “reveal” at the end felt like a bit of a stretch – it wasn’t terrible, but given how fantastic the rest of the book is, I just had really high hopes for how everything ultimately ties together. Some strands of storylines were also left loose, and while perhaps their only intent was to serve as a red herring, it felt a bit incomplete.
If you are looking for a fast, well-written mystery with nuanced characters, The Dinner Guest is for you. It hits the shelves on April 1st – which is in less than two weeks! Thank you so much to Netgalley, the author, and One More Chapter for the opportunity to receive an ARC in exchange for an honest review.