Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena | Book Review | #NotAHappyFamily

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets – even the dead.

In the quiet, wealthy enclave of Brecken Hill, an older couple is brutally murdered hours after a tense Easter dinner with their three adult children. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you’d know.

Wouldn’t you?

Publisher: Bantam Press/Transworld
Format: Ebook, Audio, Hardback (5 August 2021) | Paperback (14 April 2022)
Pages: 368
Source: Copy received for review


Not A Happy Family is the fourth book I’ve read by Shari Lapena (there are a couple I have yet to read) and I’ve enjoyed each one. This one though was a cracking read and my favourite so far.

Fred and Sheila Merton are extremely wealthy but awful parents, Fred especially. He is cruel and dismissive, especially to his son Dan who is now unemployed after his father sold the family business so that Dan couldn’t get hands on it because he didn’t rate his business skills. He doesn’t care how much hurt he causes. He announces he is selling the family home despite knowing how much one of his daughters wants it. His wife Sheila is distant and unable to stand up to him.

A family dinner at Easter is the last time the family are all together. Within hours the couple have been brutally killed – and thereafter the questions and accusations start flying.

This was a book that I could have read in one sitting if I had been able to, it was so addictive. It reminded me of an Agatha Christie book where everyone was a suspect, there were shaky alibi’s and everyone was lying. Just when I had honed in on one person as a likely suspect, more revelations came to light and then I shifted focus on to someone else and around I went! With all the children standing to inherit millions from their parents deaths, there is everything to play for. There is an interesting backstory to the family which throws up further questions and revelations.

With many characters that were so unlikeable, entitled and in some cases, just spoilt brats I didn’t really care who was guilty, I just was desperate to know who and how. The detective duo of Barr and Reyes didn’t really inspire me with confidence… they gave me that small town police vibe and I worried that they seemed too much on the back foot at times. However with the constant twists and turns, I would have struggled too.

I don’t want to say anymore about the plot for fear of spoilers but this is a book you need to read and enjoy for yourselves. I love a book that I can get completely engrossed in and this definitely fitted the bill. A fabulous entertaining read.

My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite and to the publisher for the review copy.


Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller, the bestselling fiction title in the UK in 2017 and has been optioned for television. Her thrillers A Stranger in the House, An Unwanted Guest, Someone We Know and The End of Her were all Sunday Times and New York Times bestsellers.


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