The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
Published by Harper Books, an imprint of HarperCollins
Sterne has been thrown into disarray. It is Emerald Torrington’s twentieth birthday and guests will be arriving any minute, even as her stepfather is off bargaining with business men beneath their status in order to keep Sterne in the family. If this was not all dramatic enough, shortly after their guests arrive, the Torringtons receive word that there has been an accident on a nearby rail line, and their house is being commandeered to house the survivors. The somewhat snobby family is not particularly happy about opening their house to third class passengers when they have a celebration happening, and so the small group is ushered into the morning room and all but ignored. The number of passengers seems to keep climbing, though, and they are getting increasingly frustrated with their inability to move on, and with the lack of contact from the Railway. It is the appearance of an old acquaintance of Mrs. Torrington’s from amongst the rabble, though, that really sets the evening awry.
The Uninvited Guests has a bit of a slow start, partially because Emerald and her family are not particularly appealing characters. They are overly proud and extremely concerned with their station in life, which certainly does not promote empathy. They spend a fair amount of time ridiculing the guests they have invited and worrying about showing off their greatness at the party, while simultaneously worrying about losing their grand estate and all that it represents. If you keep reading, though, the plot begins to slowly sneak up on you, and before long you will not want to close the book.
Once the night begins to fall apart, the reader gets caught up in Jones’s story, wondering if he or she has guessed correctly as to just what is going on with the guests and just what about this man from Mrs. Torrington’s past has her so upset. The Uninvited Guests was wisely kept to under 300 pages, much more might have made the characters hard to swallow, but at this length the storytelling was tight enough to engage the reader in the events of this bizarre evening.
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