Saturday, July 6, 2024

One Big Happy Family

One Big Happy Family by Jamie Day
7/16/24; 368 pages
St. Martin's Press

One Big Happy Family by Jamie Day is a highly recommended locked-room mystery featuring an assortment of disagreeable characters.

Nineteen-year-old Charley Kelley lives rent free and works as a chambermaid at The Precipice, a legendary, family-owned hotel on the coast of Maine. All of Charley's money goes toward providing for her grandmother who is in a care home with dementia. At least she has one friend at The Precipice, Rodrigo, the front desk manager. After the owner George Bishop dies, his daughters, Vicki, Iris, and Faith, are set to arrive at the hotel for the reading of his will even though Hurricane Larry is predicted to make landfall during their stay. Before the sisters arrive, Charley agrees to hide a young woman, Bree, in an empty room to keep her safe from her abusive boyfriend. In return Bree has promised to pay Charley to help her take care of her grandmother.

Once Vicki arrives with her husband Todd, it becomes clear that the weekend may be tougher and even more demanding than expected. Faith arrives with her partner Hope, and their son Oliver, a fourteen-year-old who speaks in rhymes. Finally sister and ex-con Iris arrives with Vicki's son, Quinn. The tension-filled and secret-keeping group awaits the arrival of the lawyer, Brenda Black, and the reading of the will, which releases all manner of mayhem - and murder.

The narrative is broken down into four parts. The pace in the first two parts moves rather slowly as the plot is set up and background information is provided, however things really take off in the last two parts. The short chapters help the drama and revelations move along. Many of the secrets the sisters are keeping end up being revealed. The hurricane plays a major role in the narrative as everyone is trapped in the hotel while the electricity keep flickering on and off and cell reception is down.

Charley is a sympathetic character and you will want her to survive her encounter with the sisters. All the sisters are, predictably, disagreeable characters. You know from the backstory the big secret they are hiding and can easily surmise some others. The other characters are a mixed bag.

While most of the secrets are not shocking because you can guess what is going to happen, the animosity and vitriol that accompanies them will keep you reading and immersed in the action. I was entertained throughout. If you enjoy locked-room mysteries, One Big Happy Family is a good choice. Thanks to St. Martin's Press for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

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