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16 / 30 books. 53% done!

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75 / 104 books. 72% done!

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90 / 165 books. 55% done!
Thursday, February 11, 2021

Locked-Room Mystery/Thriller an Engrossing, Intriguing Debut

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After barely surviving a traumatizing abduction by a vicious serial killer while on the job in Manhattan, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant has moved upstate, taking a position with the Bureau of Crime Investigation (BCI).  Idyllic Alexandria Bay, a charming village in the Thousand Islands area, is the perfect place to lick her wounds.  With her devoted fiancé by her side, she hopes to put her nightmares behind her and make a fresh start in the peaceful riverside town.  

Shana is shocked when her department receives a frantic call about a murder on an island that is privately owned by a wealthy family from the city.  With an incoming nor'easter creating stormy weather and choppy water, Shana and her partner, Tim Wellington, head out to Tern Island.  Nine members of the Sinclair family, a wealthy clan that has made a fortune in the NYC fashion industry, have been vacationing there.  One of them, 26-year-old Jasper, has vanished.  The bed in which he and his girlfriend were sleeping is soaked in blood, but there's no corpse and the girlfriend claims to have no idea what happened.  Tim thinks they're dealing with a spoiled businessman who's gone missing to get attention.  Shana's sure it's murder.  

With only a handful of suspects on the remote island, it seems clear that Jasper has not just been killed but also that he's been murdered by a member of his own family.  All of them had motive, means, and opportunity.  Which one made sure Jasper was out of the way?  And why?  As the storm worsens, isolating Shana and Tim on the island with a dysfunctional family, one of whom is a killer, the situation grows increasingly perilous.  Can Shana and her partner get the truth out of their very reluctant witnesses?  Can they unmask the murderer before someone else turns up dead?  Will that someone be one of them?  

I love me a locked-room mystery set in an isolated locale, so I was all in for Death in the Family, a debut novel by Tessa Wegert.  Atmospheric and absorbing, the mystery is engrossing and twisty.  It kept me guessing until the very end, which is exactly what I like in a mystery/thriller.  Shana is a sympathetic heroine whose vulnerability and determination make her both relatable and admirable.  The Sinclairs are the opposite.  They're snobby, greedy, manipulative, and immature, almost to a one.  In the end, the whole sorry lot pretty much gets what they deserve.  I cared about Shana, though.  That—and an engrossing, can't-look-away plot—is what kept me reading Death in the Family.  Even though it's a depressing story, I enjoyed the thrilling read overall.  I just requested The Dead Season, the second installment in the Shana Merchant series, from the library because I'm excited to see what this intriguing heroine does next.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of books by Ruth Ware, Lucy Foley, Sharon Bolton, and Jane Casey)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, blood/gore, sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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