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by Tara Laskowski
Graydon House, December 2023
352 pages
ISBN: 1525811452

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The Van Ness family, owners of a winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York, seem to be able to afford anything—except perhaps happiness.

On the eve of a birthday bash for the two oldest siblings, twins Harper and Richard, they all meet at the winery, the first time they've come together since the death of their mother earlier in the year. They are joined by spouses Lucas and Elle, as well as youngest brother Zach and his girlfriend, Lauren. Rounding out the characters are two caretakers, a personal wellness coach, and, unbeknownst to the others, a mystery party guest who is hiding on the grounds.

The weekend is not much of a celebration. A sheen of animosity and jealousy covers all their interactions. And all the characters have secrets, ones that could potentially end relationships.

The story is narrated by four people: Harper, who owns a beauty products company and has been called a "modern-day Cruella de Vil"; Elle, who has arranged all the details of the weekend; Lauren, a journalist; and an anonymous "Party Guest" (although you may guess who this is well before the reveal).

We know early on that two people will die—most likely among these characters, as a torrential rainstorm floods all the roads to the winery and the big party is called off. The tension among the bickering siblings and spouses only rises as they find themselves trapped, even as mysterious gifts and unwanted text messages arrive.

Tara Laskowski does a good job of creating unlikable yet compelling characters. While we may not like them, we still want to know what will happen to them—and why the mysterious party guest is out to get them. The story does not disappoint, culminating with a twist—the biggest secret of all. This is a fast, riveting read that will be enjoyed by fans of domestic thrillers.

§ Lourdes Venard is an editor for an education nonprofit and a copy editing instructor with the University of California, San Diego. She lives in Washington State.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, January 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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