Lisa Unger’s Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six will most certainly appeal to readers who are enjoying the current trend of “getaway crime”—suspenseful stories constructed around the central premise of a relaxing vacation, holiday rental, or lavish luxury trip—but it will also find fans in those that enjoy watching the unraveling of long-held family secrets. As always, Lisa Unger’s understanding of human psychology—especially the need to belong—is on full display throughout.
Hannah is invited on an all-expenses paid vacation by her brother, Mako (yes, like the shark; perhaps clue number one that things are not going to go well.) Hannah is accompanied by her husband, Bruce, who works at Mako’s computer firm. Meanwhile, Mako is bringing his other half, Lisa. To entice Hannah to agree to the trip, Mako also invited Hannah’s best friend (and his one-time girlfriend), Cricket and her latest beau, Joshua. Three couples, six people, convoluted connections, and more than a few hidden agendas.
Hannah and Bruce have left their infant daughter in the care of Bruce’s mother, their first time away since her birth. Bruce has been acting strange of late, and Hannah is convinced there is something going on. She knows her snooping is wrong, but she is in a constant state of worry. Cricket, on the other hand, is convince that Joshua is “the one,” the true love she has always longed for and hopes this getaway will lead to the next big step in their relationship. The always chipper Lisa, who will do anything to feel like part of the family, wants everything to be perfect, especially now when things are anything but. And lastly, there is Mako who will find fun no matter what the cost.
As the group settles in—with the homeowner showing them around the property, the personal chef arriving to fix the first night meal, and a mysterious stranger watching from the woods—readers get a feel for the various dynamics at play within this group. The looming threat of a massive storm on the horizon is yet another foreshadowing of the turbulence ahead.
This would be enough of a storyline for many crime writers, but Lisa Unger plans to add complexity upon this already intricate web of deception. As this cabin drama is unfolding, Lisa Unger tells another tale of a man named Henry who has faced one challenge after another in his life. Readers follow along as he overcomes adversity only to be struck with more heartbreak, over and over. This coming-of-age tale is every bit as compelling as the central action, to such an extent that readers will be hard-pressed to choose which storyline is their favorite. But rest assured, Lisa Unger is a gifted writer and the way these tales eventually converge is not only exciting to experience, but also an example of some nifty plot construction.
A discussion about DNA and genealogical research in the opening Prologue of the novel works a bit like “Chekhov’s Gun,” in that readers know this will somehow become important to the ultimate revelations contained within the story, but they will be unprepared for the way in which Lisa Unger once again avoids the simplest or predictable route in order to explore a deeper truth. So much of Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six centers around the concept of belonging—whether it be as part of a family, a shared history, an unexpected (and perhaps unwanted) legacy, or some other more ephemeral connection. To be clear, Lisa Unger will make sure no one leaves this weekend getaway unscathed.
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.