The Perfect Guests
By Emma Rous. (Berkley, 284 pages, $16.)
Mystery, lies and intense family drama such as only the British can manufacture all crash together in the latest book from the bestselling author of "The Au Pair."
Set in 1988 at Raven Hall, a remote Gothic estate near London, the story revolves around two young teens. Beth is orphaned, living in a drab children's home; Nina is an only child at the grand manor. When Nina's parents decide to give Beth a try and bring her home as a friend to Nina, both girls find friendship and happiness for the first time. They grow as close as sisters, even though Beth knows she's there on a trial basis.
Then Nina gets sick just before a rare visit from her grandfather from the States, whom she's never met. The parents panic and ask Beth to stand in for her. Beth thinks it's odd, but a simple thing to do if it makes them happy.
Thus starts a web of deceit and betrayal. Fast forward to 2019, when the girls are grown, and a young musician/actress who's down on her luck gets an invitation to participate in a murder mystery at Raven Hall. It's a marketing shoot where the actors have all been invited to an overnight feast to promote the creaky old mansion as a site for mystery parties.
Soon we learn that the actors have been hand-picked and have no idea that they all are playing parts tied to their pasts.
Full of suspense, "The Perfect Guests" is a quick and engaging read. It's sometimes jarring to jump between the 1988 and 2019 story lines, but author Emma Rous pulls the strings together like a densely knitted rug at the end.