The winter months are the perfect time to read The Overnight Guest, Heather Gudenkauf’s newest thriller teeming with suspense, shocks, and plenty of snow. Throughout her career, Gudenkauf has proven herself adapt at crafting complex storylines that rarely proceed in traditional manner. The Overnight Guest is just the latest example of her ingenuity.
The first half of The Overnight Guest is actually a rotation of three distinct storylines which Heather Gudenkauf will masterfully weave together in unexpected ways right around the middle of the novel – setting up a second half that is virtually impossible to step away from until all the answers are revealed. Those storylines include:
- a summer of 2000 sleep-over between two girls – Josie and Becky – does not go as expected, resulting in the children becoming witness to a horrific crime taking place on an isolated farm in Iowa. By the time the night is over, two people are dead, Josie is traumatized, and several people are missing – including Becky.
- in present day, Wylie Lark, a true-crime writer who prefers to immerse herself in the location where the crime she is covering took place is staying at the farmhouse during a harsh snowstorm. As the storm rages around them, Wylie’s dog discovers a small boy lying on the ground in danger of freezing. Knowing there is no hope that emergency services could get to their location, Wylie takes the boy in as her guest for the evening.
- meanwhile, a third storyline is less coherent, involving a mother and daughter living an isolated existence as the husband and father comes and goes.
Crime readers will immediately begin the work of connecting these storylines in their minds as they read, but Heather Gudenkauf has some tricks (and twists) up her sleeve, making that more challenging than it might seem. Because of the three simultaneous storylines, there are many characters to keep track of, but after just a few chapters, most readers will be able to follow the events without any trouble.
The turning point comes right around the halfway mark in the novel and from there, Heather Gudenkauf shifts gears to a more traditional thriller plotline in which it is not clear if anyone will escape with their life intact. The groundwork this author has placed in the early chapters helps to ratchet up the tension and the blustery-cold setting will have readers reaching for a blanket and hot tea.
The crime writing genre has seen countless examples of past crimes leading to present danger, but Gudenkauf is not afraid to take chances with her narrative – luring readers into her complex web of events before taking some unexpected detours that delight. It is hard to imagine any crime fiction fan coming away from The Overnight Guest disappointed or unsatisfied. In fact, most will be anxiously awaiting Heather Gudenkauf’s next novel.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.