Locked-In: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

She wouldn’t mind escaping into a book. Her own life is far from perfect.

What happens when the entire country is locked-down and you are locked-in with your husband 24/7? Well you read a book where people are locked-in a lodge in which one man might have murdered his wife and another would like to kill his.

He looks at his wife, seated a short distance away, and allows his gaze to rest on her. He doesn’t doubt that … killed his wife. Because he can understand it. He can understand the impulse to want to kill your wife. To just want to end things, and to be able to move on, without all the carping. He would like to reach over to the hearth and grab the iron poker—it’s an arm’s length away—and strike his unsuspecting wife over the head with it. He knows just how it would feel, how the poker would feel in his hand, because he’s been tending the fire occasionally. He imagines leaning down as if to poke the flames, then changing course and turning suddenly, raising his arm and bringing the poker down as fast and as hard as he can and spilling her brains. Would she look up in time to realize what he was doing? What would her face look like? He would have to make the first blow count. He wonders if a poker would do it, if it would be heavy enough. Would he have enough force in his arm? How many times would he have to hit her, to be sure? Perhaps something heavier . . .

Remarkable choice indeed! And what would poor hubby think if he was to ever read this post?:)

Mitchell’s Inn is a quaint, little lodge where there is no cellular network, no wi-fi but rather good old library with books for reading offered to the guests in their rooms.

Matthew has noticed bookcases around the hotel, filled with books of all sorts.

“I found an old Agatha Christie on my bedside table,” Lauren volunteers.

“That’s me,” Bradley says. “I put books in all the rooms. So much nicer than chocolates on the pillows, don’t you think? Although we do the chocolates, too, of course.” He grins.

“I think it’s refreshing,” Lauren says.

“We actually have a rather extensive library. I can find you something else if you like. I’m very familiar with what’s in there—I’ve read most of them. Our guests like to read in the library, of course, but in the summer they read in the hammock, or by the pool, or in the gazebo.”

When the power fails there is no generator but rather oil lamps. Run by the Harwood family, the lodge has an old world charm and people come there to de-stress.

Ten strangers find themselves in the lodge on a weekend: David, an attorney, is there to take a break from trials and cases; War-correpondent Riley is on the verge of a mental collapse and lets herself be persuaded by her friend Gwen to come to the lodge to recuperate; lover-birds Matthew and Dana are there for some blissful time to get away from the stress of planning a grand wedding; Lauren and Ian too want to spend some time together while middle-aged Beverly and Henry are there to re-discover (?) the ardour of their married life. Writer Candice is there to write her novel in peace. But a snow-strom of exceptional fury mars all their plans as the lodge plunges into darkness, chaos, guilty secrets, and murder…

Shari Lapena’s book has its moments and there is a delicious twist in the end but is not one that will stay with me or which I’d want to re-read.. The present tense used is also extremely jarring at places.  Still, the novel helped me tide over two extremely stressful days and so I am extremely grateful for that.


First Line:

Friday, 4:45 p.m.

The road curves and twists unexpectedly as it leads higher and deeper into the Catskill Mountains, as if the farther you get from civilization, the more uncertain the path.

Publication Details: NY: Viking, 2018

First Published: 2018

Other books read of the same author: None


What have you been reading these days? Have you read this book, how did you find it? Other locked-in mysteries that you’d like to recommend?

13 thoughts on “Locked-In: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

  1. I have heard of this author and read good things about her writing. However, I don’t think her books are for me. I don’t usually enjoy books written in present tense, although there have been times it has worked for me. Nice review, Neeru.


    1. I don’t think I’ll be searching for her books either, Tracy. The present tense normally is a put-off for me too and I fail to understand why it has become so popular with contemporary writers. Thanks for liking the review.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome to the blog, Rick. Delighted to see you over here.

      The author was new to me too and the book has hopefully helped me getting back into reading so I am grateful. I’ll be interested to see what you make of her.

      Would love to have you visit regularly.


  2. What a coincidence. I read this just last week for exactly the same reason you chose it! To be truthful I found it listed in an online article about locked room mysteries in which the author completely misconstrued the term “locked room” into a metaphorical meaning rather than its true literal meaning. Definitely saw the And Then There Were None parallels in the two sentence summary and the review blurbs on the book made it sound frightening. I was eager to read it and see if all the raves were true.

    I HATED IT. While reading Lapena’s book I felt like I was watching a listless 1980s made-for-TV move in which the cast was primarily doing it for the money. I disliked most of the characters, didn’t believe most of their actions or motivations, found much of the plot to be ripped off from much better writers and inspired by movies rather than books, was upset that the only interesting person (Candace) was cruelly killed off (and then for no real reason as we learn in the end), and Lapena’s cold, distancing narrative style which is also irritatingly repetitive drove me up the wall. And present tense? Ugh. I have a whole soapbox speech about that overused gimmick and why it fails in popular fiction. Lapena hasn’t a clue how to use it effectively and in many spots she slips into past tense which was not corrected by her editor.

    When the first victim is discovered I immediately thought of The Hollow and many other Agatha Christie novels. “Don’t tell me this is going to turn out like that?” It did. The surprise in the end related to Henry’s death was predictable because Lapena gave it away in a previous chapter. Her clues, when they turned up, were glaringly obvious.

    These books tend not to excite me at all. I am always disappointed when I give in to the hype lavished on them. And so much of it is undeserved. those that I have dared to read are all rehash, borrowing tired plots that have been done to death, and mostly like this one are sloppily executed. This is probably one of the worst I’ve read in the past ten years. If they are all like this it’s no wonder I retreat into the past for richer writing, more imaginative stories, backgrounds that excite and educate, and plots that truly thrill.


    1. Oh John, it was all so worth reading and writing about the book if only to hear (yes I heard it loud and clear) this ran… er…I mean comment of yours. It is not merely a coincidence that I read the book a week after you read it but that I too read it after reading an online article:


      Agree with you about the characters, the writing style, and the use of the present tense. I wonder why it is so popular with writers of today. I’d love to hear that soap-box speech:) Though I guessed the identity of the murderer, I did not get it about Henry’s death. And what was the connection with Christie’s The Hollow?

      Like you I have found that many hyped books do not work for me at all (Girl with the Dragon…; Girl on the Train…) I am envious of those who are able to resist all the hype. What I love is discovering a little known/ read author.


      1. I thought I had toned it down. But it is a rant, isnt it? :^) There were two full paragraphs I cut out! Very visceral reactions here. You know what would have been fun? Having someone video me while reading it. I tend to talk to the book and the author when I’m having a very negative reaction to it.

        Henry’s death was foreshadowed by the mention of Warfarin being used as rat poison. I work in a hospital and know all the side effects of Warfarin. It’s an anticoagulant and an overdose can thin the blood so much that internal bleeding occurs. Only someone who knew of his heart condition would be clever enough to know that.

        If I divulge the connection between this book and The Hollow than I’ll spoil Christie’s book for anyone who hasn’t read it. I’ll say it this way — There is only one person seen standing over the body at the foot of the stairs in Lapena’s book.


        1. OK, now I get it about The Hollow connect and Henry’s death.

          Why did you delete those two paras? It was great fun to go through your reaction to the book and would have loved to read more of it:) And yes, a video would have been GREAT. I am wondering what you did to your copy of the book!


          1. I t was a library book! Obtained just before our Mayor shut down the entire CPL system (3rd largest in the US!) I’d never have invested money in a book with that premise. But I did buy my copy of Eight Perfect Murders (another new book I hated) because every single library copy was on hold and there were close to 45 people waiting for it! Now with ALL the libraries closed I have only my own books to rely on. I’m still buying books if they are extremely scarce or I’m too eager to wait for them. Amazon delivery is super quick. I can get new books in a single day. But I’ll hold off on the new stuff for a long time after these two bad experiences.


            1. The libraries shutting down is one of the worst things that has happened. Sorry for EIGHT PERFECT MURDERS turning out to be such a let-down esp since you had bought it. I am sure your collection is not going to peter out anythime soon, John. I have realised that the number of books that i have on my shelves/ downloaded on the laptop are not going to be finished in this lifetime. Good to know that Amazon is still delivering in the US. Over here, they have put a ban on online deliveries.

              Take care and read some old stuff which doesn’t make you gnash your teeth (though I love those posts:)


  3. I left a comment but because I added a hyperlink to an online article I think it got flagged as spam. Check your comments in your WordPress account.


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