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The Other Guest


The Other Guest

Helen Cooper follows up her debut novel, THE DOWNSTAIRS NEIGHBOR, with THE OTHER GUEST, a twisty thriller composed of three parallel storylines.

The first introduces readers to Joanna Greenfield, the Head of Counseling Services at the University of Derby in England. She lives with her cat and is recovering from her breakup with Luke, who she had been with for 16 years. It isn’t long before she meets Callum Foley, a bartender, and they go on a first date.

Then, out of the blue, Joanna receives a phone call from the hospital telling her that Callum listed her as his emergency contact. In a state of confusion, she rushes to his bedside in the middle of the night. Joanna feels out of place and guilty sitting next to Callum as he regains consciousness from being hit by a car. She has been dealing with the attempted suicide of a student who attends her school and has flashbacks to the meetings she conducted with the young man’s father. Sitting in a hospital ICU does not help her anxiety attacks.

"Laced with secrets and lies, THE OTHER GUEST is a potpourri of tension, red herrings and clues to please anyone’s appetite for the suspense of a well-plotted mystery novel."

When Callum is upgraded to stable condition, the doctor insists that if he wants to be released from the hospital, it must be to a place where he has help. Joanna feels compelled, out of compassion and the guilt that haunts her, to open her home to him. He accepts. When they talk, Callum is cagey with his answers to her questions. Joanna is certain that he’s lying and trying to avoid talking about himself. What is he hiding, and can she keep his presence in her house a secret?

Joanna works with Luke’s sister, Mandy, who is always trying to get them back together. This keeps Joanna on edge and constantly on the defensive. More than a relationship breakup, they canceled their wedding, and Luke is already dating someone else. She bumps into him from time to time and is always uncomfortable in his presence. So when she receives a text from him asking if they can talk, her anxiety level soars.

The second storyline is set in Lake Garda, Italy, and deals with the death of 21-year-old Amy Wynne, who drives the third storyline. Amy drowned in the lake where her family owns an exclusive resort, known to the very rich as Il Mandarino Luxury Holiday Village. Her loved ones facilitate having her death certified as an accident, despite some abnormalities that don’t quite add up to this conclusion. Leah Hannell, a London attorney who was very close to her niece, buries Amy and decides to return to the pristine resort. When she arrives, she notices that Amy’s photographs are no longer on display. Her sister, brother-in-law and surviving niece, Olivia, never mention Amy anymore, acting as if she never existed. What could they be hiding?

The chapters that belong to Amy give readers a glimpse into her personality and her final thoughts. They are short and to the point, painting a picture of a young, unhappy woman who calls a dear friend on the night she died to say goodbye. Francesca is in a tizzy about this, so she tracks down Leah to let her know about texts she received from Amy. The shadow of suicide creeps slowly into the mystery, but none of this is making any sense to Leah.

As the narrative unfolds, readers are completely drawn to the parallel stories. Laced with secrets and lies, THE OTHER GUEST is a potpourri of tension, red herrings and clues to please anyone’s appetite for the suspense of a well-plotted mystery novel. The connection between Joanna and Leah comes late in the story, but it’s a welcome surprise. The prose is finely honed, and the characters are fully formed. Each one is given a healthy inner life, as a well as interesting and gripping outer experiences. Readers will find themselves immersed in the plot and will be eager to find the answers to the mysteries that arise.

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on August 5, 2022

The Other Guest
by Helen Cooper