Not a Happy Family
Shari Lapena is back at Book of the Month.
Shari Lapena is back at Book of the Month.
We can't get enough of this twisted domestic suspense of a wealthy family unraveling after their parents are murdered.
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.
There are many expensive houses here in Brecken Hill, an enclave on the edge of Aylesford, in the Hudson Valley. Situated on the east side of the Hudson River, about a hundred miles north of New York City, it’s like the Hamptons, but slightly less pretentious. There’s old money here, and new. Down the long private drive, past a clump of birches, there it sits: the Merton home, on its vast expanse of lawn, presented like a cake on a platter. A glimpse of a swimming pool to the left. Behind is a ravine, and thick trees on either side of the property guarantee privacy. This is prime real estate.
It’s so still and undisturbed. A weak sun is out, and some scudding clouds. It’s four o’clock in the afternoon on Easter Monday; elsewhere, children are greedily finishing off their chocolate bunnies and foil-wrapped eggs, gauging what’s left and eyeing how much remains in the baskets of their siblings. But there are no children here. The children have grown up and moved away. Not far, mind you. They were all over just yesterday, for Easter Sunday dinner.
The place looks deserted. There are no cars in the driveway—they are shut away behind the doors of the four-car garage. There’s a Porsche 911 convertible; Fred Merton likes to drive that one, but only in the summer, when he throws his golf clubs in the trunk. For winter, he prefers the Lexus. His wife, Sheila, has her white Mercedes with the white leather interior. She likes to put on one of her many colorful Hermès scarves, check her lipstick in the rearview mirror, and go out to meet friends. She won’t be doing that anymore.
A house this grand, this polished—glossy white marble floor beneath an elaborate, tiered chandelier in the entryway, fresh flowers on a side table—you’d think there must be staff for upkeep. But there’s only one cleaning lady, Irena, who comes in twice a week. She works hard for the money. But she’s been with them so long—more than thirty years—that she’s almost like family.
It must have looked perfect, before all this. A trail of blood leads up the pale, carpeted stairs. To the left, in the lovely living room, a large china lamp is lying broken on the Persian rug, its shade askew. A little farther along, beyond the low, glass coffee table, is Sheila Merton in her nightclothes, utterly still. She’s dead, her eyes open, and there are marks on her neck. There’s no blood on her, but the sickening smell of it is everywhere. Something awful has happened here.
In the large, bright kitchen at the back of the house, Fred Merton’s body lies sprawled on the floor in a dark and viscous pool of blood. Flies buzz quietly around his nose and mouth. He’s been viciously stabbed many, many times, his fleshy throat slit.
Who would do such a thing?
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!
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.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ What a page-turner! Kept me guessing. Plenty of red-herrings that also served a greater purpose to expose and unravel the family. There's repetition and the end could have been more satisfying.
Who killed Fred and Shelia? The one person I thought it was the whole time, it wasn’t. Some of the spouse’s thoughts don’t add to the story but overall I really enjoyed it! Definitely kept me guessing
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!