Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

Shari Lapena’s latest home thriller is misleading, and its title is nothing short of an understated description. Following Fred and Sheila Merton’s gruesome murders in their mansion on Easter Sunday, events in the days following the incident took place in a non-inspirational fashion. In order to inherit their parent’s wealth, the three adult children promptly became suspects for investigators. Jenna, Catherine, and Dan grow increasingly paranoid about each other. To add to the confusion, Lapena inserts additional possible suspects into his story.

While she loved and nurtured her children, Sheila was unable to stand up to her heartless and domineering husband, allowing him to mistreat their children. Fred was known to cause his children mental suffering; for example, he made them feel unloved, unappreciated, and unimportant, and he would often break promises to provide for them. Despite the loss of their mother, Catherine, Dan, and Jenna remain unfazed by their father’s death. Their primary focus is to prove their innocence and save enough for what they hope to inherit. Despite this, Ted and Lisa, Catherine and Dan’s husbands, also have their reservations.

Catherine is the most traditional among her siblings: a dermatologist who is prosperous. Even though she had no real relationship with her father, she coveted the mansion. She was furious when she found out that he was planning to sell the house. It had been her dream to inherit it, so she was quite disappointed. Dan’s father’s animosity has only made matters worse since Dan has been failing in business. Everyone looks at him as the murderer after the finding of the bodies. Jenna is the Mertons’ youngest child, an artistic rebel who spends her money frivolously. Despite her seeming uninvolved, she asked her new partner to lie to the police about her whereabouts that night and participate in her crime.

Fred had three heirs, and all of them had a chance and motive to kill him, but other people stand to benefit from his death. Audrey thinks she will get his money when he dies. How about the secret affair of Rose and Ellen Cutter and Fred? After all, there is support available. For the family, Irena Dabrowski, the cleaner/de facto nanny, is their greatest source of information about themselves.

Detective Reyes and Barr use readers as part of their investigative team by sharing information with them and by empowering them to help solve the mystery.

As the book readers gain insight into each character’s reactions to the murder news, their attempts to appear united to detectives, suspicions about one another, and their dreams of an inheritance. Lapena’s story is quite stark and emotionless, reflecting the feeling of Fred and Sheila’s relatives, who treated the situation as if Fred and Sheila were never truly part of their lives. Lapena, like the Merton family in her novel, isn’t concerned with resolution, and dumps readers into a terrifyingly confused atmosphere without clarifying any character or story.

There are a number of well-thought-out twists and turns. It does quite well as a crime thriller, though, which should delight fans. Lapena has done it again and created a good, interesting read.

Title: Not a Happy Family: the instant Sunday Times bestseller

Author: Shari Lapena

Publisher: Transworld, 2021

ISBN: 1473574455, 9781473574458

Length: 368 pages

Subjects: Fiction › World Literature › American › 21st Century

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Hi, I'm Shayne. I love to read, write and travel. I'm full time writer. Welcome to my blog. Read More

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