The baby is coming. There’s no way to call for help. And there’s no way out.
With a few weeks to go until their first baby is due, Jamie and Victoria head off for a weekend break in a small countryside guesthouse.
The next morning, Jamie and Victoria awake to find the guesthouse has been emptied. Both their mobile phones and their car keys have disappeared, the owners are nowhere to be seen, and all the doors are locked. Even though it’s a few weeks early, Victoria knows the contractions are starting. And there’s no way out…
I’ve read a lot of psychological thrillers so now I consider myself fairly adept at spotting plot twists. So it was a pleasant surprise when I did not see any of the revelations in Robin Morgan-Bentley’s new novel The Guest House coming!
Seeking one last break before their baby arrives, Jamie and Victoria check in to Chorister’s Lodge, a small luxury guesthouse in a remote part of the North Pennines. Upon arrival, they are greeted warmly by Barry and Fiona, who cook them dinner and show them to their room. When Jamie and Victoria wake up the next morning, however, Chorister’s Lodge is deserted. Barry and Fiona are nowhere to be seen, the rooms are locked up, and Jamie and Victoria’s phones and car keys have been taken. And, despite being weeks early, Victoria knows that her contractions have started and the baby is on its way.
I’m going to be honest and say right from the off that the premise of The Guest House is…somewhat far-fetched. Leaving aside any major spoilers for later plot revelations, it was somewhat unbelievable to me that a couple who had struggled to get pregnant (Jamie and Victoria, it transpires, have been having IVF) would risk going to a remote guesthouse miles from the nearest hospital only a few weeks before their baby was due. And, as the plot reveals, it only moves further beyond the bounds of probability.
BUT (and this is important), I ended up not really caring that the premise was beyond belief because the twists are just so good and the writing had me hooked!! I genuinely didn’t see most of the revelations coming and the final twist, when it arrived, was really unexpected! Which is, for me anyway, the signs of a very enjoyable thriller indeed.
Robin Morgan-Bentley has also conveyed a really chilling scenario with just the right amount of fear and malice. This is a thriller that, at times, borders on horror territory because some of what happens to Jamie and Victoria in Chorister’s Lodge is seriously sinister! Indeed, readers of a sensitive disposition should be aware of some relatively graphic medical/childbirth content, as well as (**mild spoilers ahead**) a plotline involving kidnapping/abandonment, infidelity, fertility issues/IVF, and child death. And this tension doesn’t let up until right at the end of the book, making The Guest House a page-turning read!
Morgan-Bentley has also done a really good job of conveying the characters. Although Barry and Fiona are very VERY creepy, once you realise why they are doing what they’re doing to Jamie and Victoria, you do begin to understand their warped psychology. Revelations about Jamie and Victoria also change our perceptions of them and their relationship as the book develops. Whilst many of the characters are not, by the end of the book, especially sympathetic, it is clear why they act the way that they do and I did buy into the reasoning for their decisions and actions, even if I didn’t sympathise with the decisions themselves.
Overall, The Guest House is what I would call a riot of a novel. By which I mean that it’s probably not the most realistic premise you’ll read this year but, if you’re happy to ignore that, it is a wild ride of a book that offers a huge amount of entertainment value for thriller lovers. Fans of Ruth Ware and Lucy Foley will definitely want to check this one out.
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher and author for providing me with a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.
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