Source: Review copy
Publication: 1 April 2021 from One More Chapter
My thanks to the publisher for a review copy
Four people walked into the dining room that night. One would never leave.
Matthew: the perfect husband.
Titus: the perfect son.
Charlie: the perfect illusion.
Rachel: the perfect stranger.
Charlie didn’t want her at the book club. Matthew wouldn’t listen. And that’s how Charlie finds himself slumped beside his husband’s body, their son sitting silently at the dinner table, while Rachel calls 999, the bloody knife still gripped in her hand.
Classic crime meets Donna Tartt in this nerve-shredding domestic noir thriller that weaves a sprawling web of secrets around an opulent West London world and the dinner that ends in death.
We open with the murder. Matthew Allerton is murdered whilst at the dinner table. Charlie, his husband, can only watch as Rachel, clutching the bloody knife that was the instrument of his death, phones for an ambulance..
Matthew and Charlie are the perfect couple. The couple who have it all. Charlie lives an Instagram life and their adopted son, 15 year old Titus, fits in perfectly with that. Living in the opulent surrounds of Kensington and Chelsea, they are happy together and enjoy a life full of good things from Waitrose. Culture comes in the form of their occasional theatre visits and Matthew’s regular book club.
Charlie and Rachel are our narrators. Charlie is living the glossy mag dream. Rachel is the cuckoo in the nest. A seemingly chance meeting in Waterstones leads to a friendly exchange; a second encounter in M&S leads Matthew to invite Rachel to their home for the book club. Rachel seems to become a part of their lives and Charlie is discomfited.
He knows something isn’t right, but he can’t pin it down. Matthew thinks he is being snobbish, but it’s more than that…Charlie can’t understand why, but his seemingly perfect life is slowly starting to unravel.
B.P. Walter’s novel peels back the layers on an affluent, entitled couple living a superficially glamorous life. Into that life Rachel comes and like the worm in the apple, everything turns rotten from the inside while the skin still glows.
As Rachel becomes a fixture in their lives, so Charlie and Matthew seem to become further apart.
Did Rachel murder Matthew? If so why? There are not so many suspects in this novel that this is a whodunit; rather this is about motivation. Not really who did it, but why did they do it?
There are stereotypes here; affluent Londoners and the Northern girl. (It’s grim up North). Poor v rich lifestyles as Rachel lives on a housing estate in Pimlico and Charlie and Matthew a house in Chelsea. But under the bonnet of this sleek car is a host of loose wires and the veneer that sets off Mathew and Charlie’s perfect life starts to chip as soon as Rachel enters their lives.
Neither Charlie nor Rachel is a sympathetic character. Charlie is vain, narcissistic and a snob. Rachel is more of a blank canvas. A schemer, but we don’t know why or to what end, though we are drip fed clues throughout the book.
As we learn more about these lives, so it becomes clear that that each of them, even Titus, is prepared to play the angles to get what they want.
Verdict: The Dinner Guest is a fast paced, entertaining read that keeps the reader guessing. Full of secrets, lies and dreadful people it is like watching a car crash and knowing you can’t stop it happening. The carnage will be dreadful, but you have to keep on watching. Walter keeps the chapters short and snappy and there are plenty of twists and misdirection to keep the reader wrong footed.
B.P. Walter is the author of A Version of the Truth (published in the US as The Couple’s Secret) and Hold Your Breath. He was born and raised in Essex and after spending his childhood and teenage years reading compulsively, he worked in bookshops then went to the University of Southampton to study Film and English followed by an MA in Film & Cultural Management.He is an alumni of the Faber Academy and currently works in social media coordination for the head office of Waterstones. He lives in Central London.