Blog Tour – June 2022 – The Other Guest – Helen Cooper

So – a psychological thriller with two protagonists; one in Derby, one in Lake Garda, Italy. How did you enjoy The Other Guest?

I absolutely adored it! It kept me up late on more than one night, and I absolutely flew through it (and I’m not the fastest reader – plus some of the meds I’m on for nerve damage cause me to fall asleep and wake up sitting up, with specs on and a cold hot chocolate next to me!) The Italian setting, particularly, was heavenly sounding – an exclusive resort, run by a glamorous family. But, it being a psychological thriller, there were secrets lurking behind the facade – as was the case in Derby, too…

Tell us a little bit about the basic storyline, and the two characters who propel the plot along…

It’s really about the death by drowning of Amy, one of the daughters of the family who run the highly exclusive resort set on a remote part of the shores of Lake Garda. The book is set a year after her death, and it’s the first time since before it happened that her aunt, Leah, has felt able to return to see her sister Charlotte, brother-in-law Gordon, and remaining niece Olivia, who all run the resort. Leah’s very different to the glamorous Charlotte and Olivia – she was more similar to Amy, who wanted more from life than running the resort. Leah’s a successful lawyer, and enjoys pushing herself with fell running and other sporty pursuits.

The other character, in Derby, is Joanna, who works as a university counsellor. She’s just recovering after a painful breakup with Luke, who she’d bought a “forever house” with before their relationship inexplicably imploded, with Luke ending it. She meets a barman, Callum, who’s just arrived in Derby, knowing no-one, and started work in a pub close to her new home she occasionally drops into. Like all the best barmen, he’s a great listener, and so the two become friends. But Joanna’s somewhat shocked to be summoned to the hospital after Callum is involved in a hit-and-run, leaving him with broken ribs and covered in bruises. Joanna feels somewhat railroaded by the busy hospital into allowing him to move into her spare room…until it occurs to her that she really doesn’t know this man at all. Who is the stranger she has allowed to move into her home?

And in Italy…?

“Auntie Lee,” as she was known by both her nieces, is continuing her investigation into Amy’s death, by, amongst other things, questioning her friends in the nearby village. But her brother-in-law Gordon is trying to intimidate her into dropping her investigation, seemingly more concerned for the PR of the resort – or has he another reason for getting her to drop it? And someone in the household steals photos and a SIM card given to her by Amy’s best friend, and replaces them with photos of Leah taken around the heavily camera-ed resort – along with a threat to drop her investigation into Amy’s death…

It’s not difficult to see where the two situations dovetail – it’s not intended to be, but, beyond that, Helen Cooper keeps you guessing beautifully…the sinister background behind the beautiful and luxurious facade of the resort is wonderfully portrayed, as is Joanna’s growing unease at Callum’s residency in her home. What does he want from her? She realises how much she’s isolated herself, and how naive her behaviour would look to any friends or family. Is she just jumping at shadows, and there’s really nothing threatening about Callum? And she then runs into her ex-partner Luke, and is shocked at how much weight he has lost and how ill he looks…

It all sounds very dramatic…

It is, wonderfully so, like all the best psychological thrillers. And, also like them, you’re jumping ahead, guessing at possible outcomes – and if you’re like me, you’ll get them all wrong! The book suggests that Helen Cooper is an author to keep your eye on – and this book is the perfect summer read. (I’ll also be seeking out her debut, The Downstairs Neighbour.)

Perfect holiday reading!

Thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for my proof copy. This is an unbiased review and reflects my true opinion of the novel.

BLURB: After a shocking death at a luxurious Italian resort, two very different women must question everything—and everyone—they love in order to untangle truth from lies in this twisty, captivating read.

One year ago, Leah’s feisty 21-year-old niece, Amy, mysteriously drowned in the beautiful lake near her family-owned resort in Northern Italy. Now, Leah’s grief has caught up with her, and she decides to return to Lake Garda for the first time since Amy’s death. What she finds upon her arrival shocks her—her sister, brother-in-law, and surviving niece, Olivia, seem to have erased all memories of Amy, and fought to have her death declared an accidental drowning, despite murky circumstances. Leah knows she must look beyond the resort’s beautiful façade and uncover what truly happened to Amy, even if her digging places both her family ties and her very life in danger.

Meanwhile in Central England, thirtysomething Joanna is recovering from a surprising break-up when she is swept off her feet by a handsome bartender. But when she learns that he is on the run from something in his past, and that their meeting may not have been a coincidence, Joanna realized that he may just a bit too good to be true.

What follows is a propulsive cat-and mouse game set against the Italian lakeside as the two seemingly-unconnected women are caught up in a dangerous conspiracy.