Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert
Narrator: Callie Beaulieu
Series: Shana Merchant #1
Published by Tantor Audio on February 18, 2020
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 9 hrs 48 mins
Pages: 320
Format: Audiobook
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four-half-stars

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.

Reviews for Death in the Family both drew me to the book and made me wary. “A Christie-inspired mystery.” “This is an Agathe Christieesque murder mystery.” “If you loved Agatha Christie you are going to have a new author to fill that void.” I love Christie and that era of mystery in general, but rarely do modern novels actually pull off that feel. While Death in the Family has some of those classic elements, a rich family, an isolated manor, but I feel like “Christie-esque” has come to mean that it’s a good puzzle type mystery, but the comparison isn’t really fair to Christie or Wegert. I really enjoyed it. It’s a good mystery, tense, atmospheric, but our sleuth especially would not fit in a Christie novel; which is neither good or bad.

Detective Shana Merchant has relocated to upstate New York after being kidnapped by a serial killer. She is still dealing with her PTSD and flashbacks but has been cleared for work. She and her partner Tim receive a call out to a private island, someone has been murdered. When they get there they find a bloody bed, no body, and a house full of suspects. And they are all trapped there by a storm. Shana is a strong, smart character. I could have done without the boyfriend altogether. He added to her backstory, but I didn’t buy that relationship from the beginning.

The Sinclairs are a dysfunctional family. The only potentially likable one is dead. The rest all seem possibly guilty at one point or another. Wegert does a good job at showing us all the clues, but I at least didn’t solve it before Shana.

Death in the Family is a good balance of solid and creative mystery and intriguing character development. This was the first in a planned series. I’m looking forward to getting to know Shana better, although I do hope we have a little less reliving of the kidnapping unless we can get some resolution.

About Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Adweek, and The Economist. She grew up in Quebec near the border of Vermont and now lives with her family in Connecticut. Tessa writes mysteries set in Upstate New York while studying martial arts and dance. DEATH IN THE FAMILY is her first novel.

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