The crime scene is the stuff of nightmares: A blood-drenched bed in a posh, pristine home on a family’s private island. Worse yet, the victim is missing. Called to the scene in the midst of a ferocious storm, Senior Investigator Shana Merchant’s partner on the case challenges her assessment of the case and asserts a theory that the victim may be injured but alive. Death in the Family is a dark and stormy mystery that sets doubt and certainty against one another for up-all-night reading.
Author Tessa Wegert’s debut is impressive in its scope. The Sinclair family is packed with suspects, and their confinement in foul weather makes for short tempers and lots of juicy misbehavior. But on top of that classical, Christie-like foundation, there’s the matter of Shana’s personal history. We learn over the course of the novel that she was abducted by a serial killer when she worked for the NYPD, a trauma from which she may not have fully recovered. Her new job in the rural Thousand Islands region is not supposed to include the depravity this case confronts her with. Both Shana’s partner and her fiancé question her judgement, and her behavior at times makes their concerns seem entirely reasonable.
As Death in the Family draws to a close, the Sinclair matter is resolved, but we’ve barely pulled back the curtain on Shana’s past. It’s enormously frustrating to close a book knowing you have to wait for the next installment, but it speaks to how finely this debut is engineered. Death in the Family marks a bold beginning to an addictive new series.