Book Review: Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert (ARC)

Death in the Family

Author: Tessa Wegert

Publication Date: 18 February 2020

Genre: Adult Fiction – Murder Mystery

Pages: 336

Publisher: Berkley

A storm-struck island. A blood-soaked bed. A missing man. Senior Investigator Shana Merchant believes it all adds up to a killer in their midst—and that murder is a family affair.

Thirteen months ago, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant barely survived being abducted by a serial killer. Now hoping to leave grisly murder cases behind, she’s taken a job in her fiancé’s sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York.

But as a nor’easter bears down on her new territory, Shana and fellow investigator Tim Wellington receive a call about a man missing on a private island. Shana and Tim travel to the isolated island owned by the wealthy Sinclair family to question the witnesses. They arrive to find blood on the scene and a house full of Sinclair family and friends on edge.

While Tim guesses they’re dealing with a runaway case, Shana is convinced that they have a murder on their hands. As the gale intensifies outside, she starts conducting interviews and discovers the Sinclairs and their guests are crawling with dark and dangerous secrets.

Trapped on the island by the raging storm with only Tim whose reliability is thrown into question, the increasingly restless suspects, and her own trauma-fueled flashbacks for company, Shana will have to trust the one person her abduction destroyed her faith in—herself. But time is ticking down, because if Shana’s right, a killer is in their midst and as the pressure mounts, so do the odds that they’ll strike again.

Calling all fans of Agatha Christie and Clue, Death in the Family is a classic murder mystery/whodunit wrought with a chilling atmosphere, suspense, secrets, and betrayal. While it doesn’t have the flashiness of psychological thrillers and the hanging off the edge of your seat while your heart beats uncontrollably in your chest, don’t let that deter you from the incredible writing that Wegert delivers.

Our female protagonist, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant, is broken. 13 months prior, she was abducted by a serial killer, which left her with trust issues and PTSD. Shana and her fiance Carson relocated to Thousand Islands in upstate NY to escape the horrors of her past since nothing really happens in this sleepy town.

Shana and her partner Tim are called to the Sinclair mansion, which is located on it’s own private island, after Jasper Sinclair has gone missing. His girlfriend Abbey woke up to pool of Jasper’s blood, but Jasper’s body is nowhere to be found. With the nor’easter storm in full force, Shana and Tim are cut off from all resources including CSI. It’s up to the two of them to solve this murder before the murderer can get away or worse, attack again.

While this murder mystery is considered a slow-burn by thriller standards, I found the plot to be propulsive and compelling. As Shana and Tim conducted the interviews, there were so many twists and turns along the way, which included a few red herrings. I personally didn’t see the final reveal coming, which I loved.

I loved the development of Shana’s character throughout the entire story. We watch her progress from a timid, shell of her previous self to someone who is determined and self-assured. The flashbacks to Shana’s abduction were also fascinating as they provide deeper insight as to what she endured. There are still some unanswered questions, so I can’t wait to see how she continues to develop in the future.

Overall, Death in the Family was a fantastic start to the Shana Merchant series, and I am excited to see what else is in store for her as well as her partner Tim.

Thank you to Berkley for my gifted review copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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