Book Review: The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

The Overnight Guest
Heather Gudenkauf

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Wow, I picked this book up on a whim. I liked the cover and was in the mood for a suspenseful read. Let me tell you, I was immediately pulled into this story about Wylie Lark, a true crime writer who rents an old farmhouse in Iowa to complete her book. The first twist is that the house is the site of a violent crime, in 2000, and the subject of her book. When a fierce winter storm rolls in, Wylie goes out to the barn to load up on firewood and discovers a half-frozen child in the snow. With no one else around, Wylie wonders how the child got there. Once back inside, she hopes to learn more.

The book alternates between three storylines. Wylie in the present day during the storm, the farming family in 2000, the murders and the investigation, and a mysterious account of a woman and girl held prisoner in the basement of a house.

Wylie knows that the power will go out, but that’s the least of her troubles. I don’t even want to hint at what happens that night, because the surprises and the suspense are what kept me intrigued throughout the book.

Back in 2000, readers learn about the crime, the victims, and the investigation. The crime shocks the small town and friends and neighbors immediately cast suspicion on several people. I guessed who might have been responsible, but I was wrong, and when I adjusted my guess, I was still wrong!

In addition, we get to know the mother and girl who are kept locked in the basement and wonder how they are connected to the story. The only hope is that they find a way to escape.

Gudenkauf does a great job with the suspense and plot, which leads to a wild showdown between good and evil. The best part of the book was how well she ties the three plots together and while there’s the required suspension of disbelief, by that point I was so invested in the story I could not wait to find out what happened.

I’m not a fan of grisly thrillers and suspense and this has a little bit of that, but that’s required to some extent to make the characters’ motives believable.

I’d just read another thriller which didn’t have nearly as much suspense, so this one was a terrific escape. I recommend The Overnight Guest to readers who like thrillers and interesting conflicts and are okay with some violence.

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24 thoughts on “Book Review: The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

  1. I admire authors who can construct their plotlines that flow in time and space. And it’s great to pick up a book on a whim and have it turn out as a recommendation. Thanks, Barbara.

    1. Hi Marian – I just wrote that same thought in an earlier comment. It’s definitely a skill and I appreciate how authors can do that. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

    1. Hi Robbie – that’s what I appreciated about it. I know some readers don’t like when authors tie together different storylines, thinking they’re unbelievable, but I enjoy seeing just how they do that and thought this one was done very well. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Hi Donna! It was really crazy – I downloaded to my Kindle on a whim and there it sat. When I picked it up I just thought I’d give it a try – never thinking it would pull me in the way it did. Thanks for stopping by! Hope you’re cooking up something good this weekend 🙂

    1. Hi Grace – I was thinking the same thing! Although the crime is much different, the setting had the same feel. Interestingly, the author is from Iowa so that makes sense. Thank you for reading and commenting – I appreciate your visits and insights!

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