Book Review: Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena

“In this family, everyone is keeping secrets – even the dead.”

Published in 2021, Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena is set in the quiet, wealthy enclave of Brecken Hill where an older couple is brutally murdered hours after a tense Easter dinner with their three adult children. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you’d know. Wouldn’t you?


A gripping page-turner, Not A Happy Family is a classic whodunit with a host of characters to question and plenty of motives to reveal.

I was a little cautious at first as there are 13 names thrown at you in the first couple of chapters, so I convinced myself to plot out a little family tree to ensure that I knew exactly who was who. But it does all click into place very quickly, and the characters soon stood out on their own while their relationships also became much clearer straight away.

The characters are all very intriguing. None of them is particularly likeable, but none of them was particularly unlikeable, either, which made it interesting to question each of their motives and alibies. With lots of surprises, too, I had a lot of fun seeing how this dysfunctional family dealt with their situation.

For me, Lapena is the Queen of a classic thriller. Although this one didn’t shock me in any way and it’s definitely more domestic than psychological, it’s a well-developed and well-written mystery, and I always find Lapena’s books so easy to read and enjoy.

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