It started with a lie… The Guests by Agnes Ravatn #bookreview #TheGuests

A young couple are entangled in a nightmare spiral of lies when they pretend to be someone else … 
Exquisitely dark psychological suspense by the international bestselling author of The Bird Tribunal.
It started with a lie…
Married couple Karin and Kai are looking for a pleasant escape from their busy lives, and reluctantly accept an offer to stay in a luxurious holiday home in the Norwegian fjords. Instead of finding a relaxing retreat, however, their trip becomes a reminder of everything lacking in their own lives, and in a less-than-friendly meeting with their new neighbours, Karin tells a little white lie…
Against the backdrop of the glistening water and within the claustrophobic walls of the ultra-modern house, Karin’s insecurities blossom, and her lie grows ever bigger, entangling her and her husband in a nightmare spiral of deceits with absolutely no means of escape…
Simmering with suspense and dark humour, The Guests is a gripping psychological drama about envy and aspiration … and something more menacing, hiding just below that glittering surface…


Hi and welcome to my review of The Guests!

I was pleased as punch when I found out a new Agnes Ravatn was coming, I do so love her books! She has this understated, quiet writing style that makes the people and the setting of her books pop while using very few words and with seemingly very little effort. It never fails to get under my skin and The Guests was certainly no exception.

Above all else, The Guests, for me at least, is a character study of Karin. Karin is married with two children, she has a house and a job she’s good at. And she has a bit of an inferiority complex and a somewhat obsessive disposition. And that’s putting it mildly. I must say, it took me a while to warm to Karin, I just couldn’t see why she felt so insecure, why she would put herself and her husband down. 

But that is of course the thing with every and any mental condition, one does not choose to suffer from it, one cannot just snap out of it. And she does try, our Karin. She tries to remind herself what she has and that it is in fact good enough, but still she feels she should have more, be more. She’s only a civil servant, her husband is but a carpenter, and surely her boys should be playing the piano instead of video games! 

To counter Karin, there’s her husband Kai, who with his dry sense of humour not only lightens the mood but also manages to stop Karin from spiralling. Most of the time, anyway. 

Karin feels very uncomfortable indeed, accepting the offer of a week in a summer house in the windswept Norwegian fjords. Surely her childhood friend (read: nemesis) is only trying to set her up, and has some ulterior motive she is yet to discover. Her paranoia and insecurities only worsen when she meets the neighbours, and you can just feel the pressure building. One little lie leads to the next, and while The Guests is certainly not a thriller in the traditional sense, it did get my heart racing as I was waiting for the ball to drop and everything to blow up in Karin’s face.

The Guests is a quiet sort of book, and surprisingly fast-paced for such a character-driven story. Every little detail from Karin’s issues to the setting is pitch-perfect, and still there is something a little off-key about the whole, which was somewhat unsettling. I had a great time with it, I was completely captivated. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy their drama with a good dose of psychology and psychological suspense.

The Guests is out in digital formats and paperback on 18 January 2024. Preorder it directly from Orenda Books here. And while you do that, I’ll be listening to The Bird Tribunal again, I have a sudden craving. Agnes Ravatn is like a chocolate, one is never enough!

Massive thanks to Orenda Books for the eARC. All opinions are my own.

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