Very weirdly I read The Guest Room by Tasha Sylva while staying at an AirBnB in England and had to leave it there as I’d accumulated some extra books at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. I realised the owners and other visitors might be slightly perturbed because of its content (involving a host snooping through her guest’s belongings), but also hoped someone else happily whiles away their time with it while travelling.
The Guest Room
by Tasha Sylva
Published by Welbeck Publishing Group
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Tess has a bad habit. She can’t stop snooping through her guests' belongings . . .
When Tess is forced to rent out her late sister’s old room to pay the bills, the urge to rummage through her guests’ belongings overtakes her every thought. Teasing herself with forbidden glimpses into the lives of strangers is a momentary thrill, but it’s the closest she’s felt to anyone since the mysterious death of her sister, Rosie.
After her newest lodger, Arran, takes the room, Tess finds his salaciously detailed diary, which chronicles his infatuation with a beautiful stranger. The diary, which appears harmless at first, slowly takes a darker, more menacing tone with each new entry.
Is this a crush or an obsession?
Her compulsion to know the truth leads to Tess shadowing Arran through the streets of London, hoping to catch a glimpse of this unnamed woman. And as she continues to peruse his diary, she can’t help but notice the similarities between the woman on the pages and herself, leaving her to wonder, Who has truly been watching whom?
I enjoyed this book by Sylva but thought it could have delved a little deeper into the motivation behind the crime(s) or even added a few extra twists by making more of our protagonist’s obvious obsession of her own. In many ways it’s a case of multiple stalkers stalking the stalked. Or something.
Ultimately it makes it hard for most of the (not-very-likeable) characters to judge others given they’re also partaking in some less-than ethical or morally ambiguous behaviour.
Tess has moved into her sister’s apartment – and life (having taken over her job) – after Rosie’s murder. She’s understandably obsessed with finding out who killed her sister which is mostly driven by guilt for having missed calls the night her sister died.
Sylva introduces a range of players, including Rosie’s boyfriend (with whom she recently broke up) and then some residents of her apartment building; one of whom has a very obvious crush on Tess. And Tess is renting out Rosie’s old room to a stranger (Arran, to whom SHE feels an attraction) to make ends meet.
I felt there was the potential to ‘unpack’ a lot more here that Sylva doesn’t and whether some of this was edited-out or believed to be extraneous to the plot’s progression, I’m not sure.
Tess often refers to Rosie being her parent’s pet (akin to the ‘good daughter’) yet mentions several instances of Rosie being obviously in mental and / or emotional distress and behaving in unpredictable ways. We learn a little of the why but it could certainly have been explained in more detail as I kept waiting for more.
I also would have liked a little more about Tess’s newfound behaviour that involved her roaming the streets at night – feeling insulted she wasn’t set-upon herself – and felt that needed some more attention, agreeing with the detective who’d investigated Rosie’s case, that she really needed to seek some professional help.
I kinda guessed the who here as it was almost the least likely of those introduced, making it an obvious choice but thought Sylva does a good job with the killer’s voice briefly interspersed amidst Tess’s narrative.
I understand this is Sylva’s debut and though I enjoyed it, I certainly would have appreciated it more if it’d taken things a little deeper.
The Guest Room by Tasha Sylva was published by Welbeck Publishing and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.