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All booksThrillerNot a Happy Family
Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

Not a Happy Family

Repeat author
Shari Lapena is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include The Couple Next Door.

by Shari Lapena

Quick take

We can't get enough of this twisted domestic suspense of a wealthy family unraveling after their parents are murdered.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FastRead

    Fast read

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Buzzy


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Murder


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SuburbanDrama

    Suburban drama

Why I love it

Ashley Audrain
Author, The Push

Few things are as satisfying as cracking open the spine of a book you just know you’re going to devour—and that’s what Shari Lapena delivers again and again. Her novels are expertly paced and deliciously twisty, reigning her one of the true queens of domestic suspense. Her latest, Not a Happy Family, does not disappoint. If, like me, you love dysfunctional sibling drama with high-stakes money in the mix, this is your next one-sitting read.

Fred and Sheila Merton are rich-rich and live a very nice life in upstate New York—until they’re gruesomely murdered in their home, after a disastrous Easter dinner with their three grown children. Now, each of the siblings has millions coming their way in inheritance, and an unspeakable sense of relief—Fred Merton was an emotionally abusive father and Sheila a neglectful mother. The problem is, the three siblings have never gotten along, and the police need someone to charge. Layer by layer, as we get the rotating perspectives of all three children, their increasingly suspicious spouses, the devoted housekeeper, and a meddling aunt, you’ll question who is framing whom, and what each person might be capable of.

Lapena gives us a razor-sharp who-dunnit thick with greed and deceit that will keep you guessing the ending with every page-turning chapter. If you’re a fan of the television show Succession, your itch for more Roy family drama will most certainly be scratched with the Merton’s. Prepare to binge this one!

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In this family, everyone is keeping secrets—especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don't come much richer than Fred and Sheila Merton. But even all their money can't protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered the night after an Easter Dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else that night who crept in with the worst of intentions? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings was a psychopath, you'd know.

Wouldn't you?

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Get an early look from the first pages of Not a Happy Family.

Member thoughts

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All (30651)
Love (14101)
Like (14982)
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30804 ratings
  • 46% Love
  • 49% Like
  • 5% Dislike
  • Mayfield Heights, OH

    I read Lapena’s “The Couple Next Door” in addition to this and now I want to read even more of her books! It’s exciting, page-turning, and I finished it in a long weekend. Definitely recommend.

  • Lakewood , CO

    4.5⭐️ This book was a rollercoaster. I loved but also HATED how many different POV this book was told in. I didn’t really like any of the characters but the mystery of “who dunnit” saved it for me.

  • Oxford, CT

    Classic “who done it?” tale that has you questioning your thoughts just when you’re convinced that you have figured it all out. Wish the author would have gone into more details on childhood, but 4/5!

  • Stamford, CT

    SO GOOD! The first “thriller” I think I’ve ever read and I loved it. Well-written, keeps you hooked, and not far-fetched or unbelievable like other suspenseful books I’ve read. 100% would recommend!

  • Oshkosh, WI

    I love Shari LaPena! She’s such an amazing story teller and she didn’t disappoint with this one! She had me guessing until the very end. I loved every character and the entire plot! Such a great read!

  • Houston, TX

    Really great and engrossing family drama that made you question every character until the end. Nice and twisty, lost just a bit of steam at the “reveal”. Still would recommend for a rainy afternoon.

  • San Jose, CA

    Just the right amount of thrill/suspense for a person who usually doesn’t like that genre! With each chapter who I thought the killer was changed. The ending felt a little rushed or lackluster though.

  • Fairview, TN

    I wasn’t sure if I was going to love this book but I was IMMEDIATELY sucked in. The twists were great and I honestly did not see several of them coming. I have recommended this book to several friends

  • Auburn , CA

    Oh boy was this one terrific read!! As I turned the pages I wanted to say, pass the popcorn— as I felt like I was watching the best suspenseful movie! And as far who done it’s go? Kept me guessing!!

  • Baltimore , MD

    My favorite type of book — a whodunit murder mystery! Lots of shady suspects and red herrings. I did not guess the twists, epilogue was good, but there were a few loose ends that were not tied up. 4/5

  • Highland Village, TX

    Loved this book. Kept me guessing most of the way. I’m disappointed in BOMC though. This was my final book of the 2021 challenge only to discover today that the challenge ended on 12/29 not 12/31/21.

  • Watertown, NY

    When you set up the “Who Done It” vibe within the first two chapters I’m hooked! I couldn’t put it down and spent the whole book trying to figure it out. It was well written to boot! Great read!

  • East quogue , NY

    LOVED this whodunit ! Up to the last page I would tell who did it but they make you feel like you know the whole time. This was perfectly written to keep you saying the infamous “one more chapter”

  • Ridley Park, PA

    I flew through this book! It was amazing! You never really knew who was the murderer and I would flip back and forth between the family members constantly. I couldn’t put it down. I had to know who!

  • West Chicago , IL

    Shari is one of my auto buy authors and I’m NEVER disappointed! Books with alternating POV aren’t usually my favorite but I found this easy to follow! Even with all the twists!!!! Absolutely loved!

  • Greenland , NH

    Whoa! Thirty-six hours from start to finish. One of the best I’ve read all year. Lapena nails the ability to grasp the readers attention and not let it go. The characters and storyline… perfect.


    It’s not literature, but it’s well-plotted with good portraits and surprises aplenty. One fun theme is that all families are messed up. It has the fewest English errors of all my BOMC selections.

  • Indianapolis, IN

    I liked how this book kept me guessing. I was between two characters the whole time and then there were a few twists that kept me interested. Loved the short chapters! Would read from her again ♥️

  • Shady Side, MD

    I’m impressed I enjoyed this book as much as I did when all of the characters in it were so dislikable. You could kind of see the “twist” coming but Lapena did a good job of making you doubt it.

  • Plymouth, MN

    Was is Colonel Mustard in the library with the rope? Much like a game of Clue but never really got the sense I was right about any of the suspects. Everyone had something to hide & were equally awful

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