1988 Beth – with her parents and elder brother having died in a car accident, Beth now lives with her Aunt Caroline, a woman who works as a journalist – a cold woman who travels a lot for work and has no time or inclination to include Beth in her life. Caroline pawns Beth off on a family of an acquaintance, The Averells. Here, at Raven Hall, fourteen-year-old Beth feels welcome at last. She becomes fond friends with Nina, the Averells’ daughter. However, there is something ‘off’ about the family. The parents do not let the teenage girls leave the estate and they are forbidden to journey into the nearby village. Then, when Nina’s grandfather visits, a game of deception is begun, a game with far-reaching consequences.
2019 Sadie – is an out-of work actress who up until recently lived with her mother. Now age twenty-eight, she finds herself alone in the house and barely able to make ends meet. She seems a bit flighty and unable to settle at any one thing.
When Sadie is offered an acting job at a remote country manor, she is overjoyed. They will pay her well and they’ve also supplied a vintage suitcase packed with vintage clothes she is to wear. It is a ‘murder mystery game’ weekend – at a place called Raven Hall, in the Fens.
This weekend will prove to evolve in a bizarre fashion, with a tragic outcome.
After reading Emma Rous’s debut novel last year, I was very excited to see how she would follow up such a fabulous book as “The Au Pair“. This one was just as well written, yet for some unfathomable reason I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as her first. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, I just liked it less.
The setting was the star of the show here. An old remote house in the East Anglian Fens. A house so desirable to one woman that she would go to any measures to have it.
The dual-time line narrative was broken by a third narrative written in italics with a narrator who was not identified until near the end. This narrative left me feeling puzzled and somewhat off balance, as it was supposed to do. All the while I was wondering who this girl was…
Of the two story-lines featuring Beth and Sadie, I far preferred Beth’s story. I felt the palpable unease at Raven Hall whilst she lived there. Insecure in her place there, Beth was a piteous character, who was eager to please her newfound ‘family’.
The author expertly ties the narratives together in a cohesive way, but I found myself feeling a tad confused on more than one occasion. The twists (and there were several) were dramatic and ever so slightly ‘over the top’, yet I admired the way Rous tied everything together and it would have been a job, as the plot was quite complex.
In summation, I believe that “The Perfect Guests” IS a book that will be thoroughly enjoyed by many readers. Although it wasn’t as good as “The Au Pair” in my personal opinion, I’m still quite certain that I will be avidly waiting for this author’s next novel. I find her writing compelling.
3.5 stars rounded up for NetGalley and Goodreads
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from
Berkley Publishing via NetGalley.
ISBN: 9780593201602 ASIN: B0871LFWY7 304 pages
Emma Rous lived in several different countries as a child – England, Indonesia, Kuwait, Portugal and Fiji – and she grew up with a passion for stories and animals. She studied zoology and veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge, and worked as a veterinary surgeon for eighteen years.
The older she got, the more she appreciated talking to her clients and listening to their life stories, and these fascinating conversations helped to fuel her long held ambition to write fiction. Eventually, in her early forties, she took a break from her vet job and wrote The Au Pair, which became a USA Today bestseller and was published in eleven countries in ten languages.
Emma Rous lives near Cambridge in England with her husband, their three sons, and their rescue dog and cat. She tries to write the sort of stories that she likes to read, and hopes that you enjoy them too!
Follow Emma Rous on Twitter @EJRous