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Not a Happy Family

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In this family, everyone is keeping secrets--especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don't come much richer than Fred and Sheila Merton. But even all their money can't protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered the night after an Easter Dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else that night who crept in with the worst of intentions? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings was a psychopath, you'd know.

Wouldn't you?

349 pages, Hardcover

First published July 27, 2021

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Shari Lapena

26 books18.2k followers

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5 stars
30,062 (22%)
4 stars
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3 stars
36,429 (27%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,496 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,130 reviews39.3k followers
November 21, 2022
Congratulations for being nominated as one of the best thrillers for Goodreads Choice Awards! This book was definitely one of the best reads of the year!
Hmmm I smell delicious, mind bending concept here: Knives out meets Succession!

Welcome to the Merton Family mention located at Brecken Hill in upstate New York. Dear Fred and Sheila Merton have no idea this will be their last family dinner party with their lovely kids who hate the guts of them. That was an ordinary Easter dinner till their lovely father started talking about how much he got disappointed of his children and they suddenly left the dinner in anger including their more than 2 decades caretaker Irena who stood up for kids.

Very Dysfunctional family: an oligarch, powerful father figure takes pleasure in tormenting his own kids to boost his own ego! Three kids who turned against each other, feeding with rivalry, anger, frustration. And finally one of them decided to take matters into his or her own hands: brutally killing parents before their father pull his last trick up his sleeve by changing his will and leaving half of his wealth to his sister a.k.a. their vindictive cutthroat bitch auntie dearest!

Yes! Unfortunately knives are not out! Because the poor caretaker Irena already washed away the murder weapon, cleaning the traces of blood and fingertips of the murderer. She has good intentions. She literally raised those kids and she truly knows how they suffered from controlling monster a.k.a real psychopath father of the year with a big ugly secret.

Yeah, their father was big bad wolf and their mother were mostly silent to his terrible actions against his children. She didn’t do anything to protect them and now that’s how she got paid for herself: being strangled to death!

Three traumatized children: one of them or all may have inherited the genes of their father, suffering from same psychopathic tendencies to commit such a brutal crime!

Poor Dan, is the mentally and emotionally weakest link of the trio. He reminds me of Successions’ Kendall a lot. His father targeted him from the beginning, abusing mentally and psychically, selling the company he’d worked hard for and left him penniless and unemployed. And his last unfortunate business investment left him high and dry. The father of the year rejects to borrow him money, humiliating him in front of everyone, pleasing to watch him squirming in pain. Being middle child and only boy must be toughest. He’s none of his parents’ favorite, left excluded and has every right to reflect years long boiled anger in different ways. Could he be the killer? Why not?

Catherine is the oldest, hard working, conservative, conventional, a doctor. She’s in good terms with everyone, her mother’s favorite child. But as soon as her father plans to sell their childhood house, her peaceful demeanor is changed. Could she lie without blushing or showing any reaction to put her on radar? Absolutely not! She’s so cool as cucumber. So calculated. So focused. Could she be sociopath? Why not?

And artsy, unconventional, rebellious, confident, attention seeker, youngest child Jenna is already blacklisted with her special sculptures about women genitalia. Her father plans to cut his financial support and he already expressed his intention in front of entire family.
Could she do something violent? Well, she has an uncontrollable temper issue, doesn’t she?

Both of the children are lying about their alibis. Both of them can return back to house at the time of murders and both of them have motives!

And their vindictive, extremely irritating auntie Audrey knows their secret, already pissed off to be excluded from half share of the wealth, smelling blood, coming after them. She thinks one of them killed her brother. Is she right?

But are those kids only the ones to inherit the will, or are there other people who could be suspect of this killings?

Whodunnit? Can you guess? Which one of them is psychopath? What if the answer is all of them!

I’m rounding up 3.5 stars to 4!

It was fast paced, riveting, intriguing page turner with great whodunnit premise introducing us so many irritating characters! Even the police officers were annoying. Only likable character was Irena! Audrey was quiet punchable one was more disturbing than the kids!

I highly recommend for the author’s great fans like me and action packed, exciting thriller readers!

Special thanks to NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Viking/ Pamela Dorman Books for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange for my honest opinions.
Profile Image for Yun.
509 reviews19k followers
May 30, 2022
The truth is, they're all so much better off now that their parents have been murdered.
The Mertons gather for Easter dinner, and it's a dreadful experience for almost everyone involved. The only one having fun is patriarch Fred Merton, who particularly enjoys bullying every member of his family, including his wife and his three grown children. So when Fred and his wife are gruesomely murdered later that night, no one is really surprised. Any of his children would gladly have done it, or was it someone else altogether who hates their father even more?

This story had me hooked from the very first page. I love Lapena's writing style here, which is sparse and to the point. It doesn't contain any unnecessary fluff or overwrought musings, so it jives well with the genre, enabling the action to take the front seat. Every page contains some crucial new development, so I always feel compelled to read just a few more pages.

The characters are unlikable but relatable. After all, who hasn't occasionally indulged in a bit of fantasy wishing an irksome relative would just go away. (No one? Oh, how awkward.) The contradiction between their complicated emotions—happiness that their father is out of their lives, shock that one of their siblings might be a murderer, and frightened of what the police would find out—creates this tension in the story that is both uncomfortable and entertaining.

The mystery proceeds like a whodunnit, with clues slowly uncovered and red herrings galore. If you've read mysteries before, the big reveal at the end probably won't shock you. For me, though, the highlight is all the little twists and turns leading up to it. They were so deliciously fun, and kept the pacing taut and brisk. Just when I think I've got it all figured out, a new surprise has me reconsidering everything.

I've read quite a few Shari Lapena books now, and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. I think I've finally figured out that I adore her mysteries (someone is killed and there are multiple suspects), while I don't like her domestic thrillers (husband or wife could be lying, so are they or aren't they). This mystery definitely goes onto my list of favorites from her.

See also, my thoughts on:
Someone We Know
The Couple Next Door
An Unwanted Guest
The End of Her

Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,068 reviews2,665 followers
November 7, 2021
Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena (Author), Ellen Archer (Narrator)

Usually I don't enjoy stories made up of a big group of selfish, greedy, rotten liars. That's the Merton family for you and now the Merton parents are dead and the lies and accusations are flying among the grown children. This is a sick, dysfunctional trio that doesn't want to lose the dysfunction but does want to grab all the wealth of their dead parents. All three kids have motive to kill their parents but would any of them be so heartless to commit these brutal murders?

The chapters are quick, jumping from one POV to another, and I liked the narration of the audiobook. It's just good, dirty, murderous fun, with no one to care about because no one is worth caring about. What a family of slime balls, they better all watch their backs and they probably know it. My favorite person was the lead detective, on the case, who could spot a liar from a mile off. But knowing someone is lying doesn't solve a case and this case is so tangled in lies that it might never get untangled.

Published July 27, 2021 by Penguin Audio
Profile Image for Holly  B (busy month catching up).
799 reviews1,807 followers
August 5, 2021

Lapena is still the Queen of Domestic Suspense!

This one was quite a page-turner for me. I was frantically turning the pages to solve the Merton murders!

Who dunnit? So many suspects, so little time. I need to know!

The family is nervous, anxious, untrusting. I don't believe any of them! They are all liars, maybe psychopaths too.

The police want to know if they had any enemies, if anyone saw anything, and who has a motive. Umm, everyone!!

A murder mystery with suspects galore and the last line was a huge high five!! Clap!

Library Loan / Read August 5, 2021
Profile Image for Michael David (on hiatus).
618 reviews1,485 followers
August 8, 2021
Was it Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick?
Was it Ms. Scarlett in the lavatory with a piece of rope?
Was it one of the Mercer children in the living room and kitchen with a wire and knife?
Or was it someone else?

Whoever it was, they sure didn’t like Fred and Sheila Mercer.

Shortly after a tense Easter dinner at Fred and Sheila’s, the couple are found murdered.

Who would do that to them?

They have three children. All of them were at Easter dinner. Two of them were with their spouses. One was with a random “boyfriend”. The former nanny and current cleaning lady was there too. One guest couldn’t make it.

All of the guests, as well as those who weren’t at the dinner, have a motive.

This is a smoothly written and unputdownable domestic suspense novel, and I absolutely loved it!

The chapters are short and sweet, making it easy to pause if you need to...but propelling you to continue.

Everyone is a suspect.
Everyone is unlikable...and in this case, it’s welcomed.
Everyone has a secret...and each character has bombshells revealed sporadically throughout.

The ending is wickedly delicious.

I’ve read all of Shari Lapena’s suspense novels (except her last one, which I plan to make right soon), and I have loved all of them.

If you enjoy books with: shite people who are fun to read about, multiple suspects, and multiple motives...READ THIS!

Now available from Pamela Dorman Books. I thank my local library for providing me with a copy through the drive-up window. 🤣

Review also posted at: https://bonkersforthebooks.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Jen.
130 reviews199 followers
August 15, 2021
I can't tell if this is a me problem and I'm burned out, or if it's a book problem, so no rating. Early reviews are loving this and I've enjoyed the author in the past, but I was bored to tears.
Profile Image for Irena BookDustMagic.
609 reviews484 followers
November 14, 2021
Actual rating: 2,75

Not a Happy Family was September pick in our book club. I was really looking forward to it because I've seen many complementary reviews, plus I do appreciate Shari Lapena as a writer even though I didn't fall in love with all of her books.

Good thing about this book is that it is easy to read, so we all finished the book faster then we planned, excluding one girl who DNFed it.

I rarely DNF books, and I almost never do it when I get a review copy, but I completely understand why one would chose not to finish this novel, as it was too repetitive with all the he said she said parts that it became boring.

This is the case of who-done-it story where everyone mentioned is also a suspect.
Somewhere around 50% mark we all thought we figured out who the killer was, but I am glad to say we were wrong.
However, I am also sad to say that the big revelation didn't come with a bang and it felt like it was just mentioned and done.

That is actually the case with the whole book. It seems like it was brought to us in such... passive way that the it was hard to be emotionally invested.

Characters didn't help either, as none of them was interesting enough, nor likeable. I don't think characters have to be likeable, but they have to impact readers, and in my opinion, Not a Happy Family lacked that.

My favourite part was the show of how a thing as murder can shake and change relationships that seemed strong before. How one can stop trusting a person and question their intentions, even though prior the big event they would swear on their life for them.

The book was written in third person and it followed too many perspectives. I think all of the characters got their POV at some point.
Good thing is that it was easy to read, but a bad thing is that it was too repetitive, so many things that were already said were mentioned again and again...
If the author decided to kill her darlings, we would probably get one longer but good novella.
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,209 reviews26k followers
August 12, 2021
Ok, so I definitely predicted who the killer was, but I still had so much FUN reading this one! This is a thriller about these rich parents who have their kids over for Easter, but these parents are kind of assholes to their kids and they put all kind of ridiculous expectations on them, and on the morning after Easter, the parents are found brutally murdered in their home. The only suspects are the three adult siblings who all will gain a big inheritance from their deaths, and who argued with their parents the night before.

This is a QUICK read, I flew through the pages because I had to know who did it and what really happened. Even though I was able to predict who did it, I think it was a very entertaining read and one of Shari Lapena’s best! It had the same vibe as Knives Out in a way, but not as complex.
Profile Image for Val ⚓️ Shameless Handmaiden ⚓️.
1,809 reviews28.4k followers
January 10, 2022
4 Fun Whodunnit Stars

This felt like the book version of the movie Knives Out in many ways, quite honestly; but it was fast-paced and kept me very entertained throughout. I flew through it and had fun the whole time.

I really loved how jacked up all the characters were...how dysfunctional their family system proved to be. How poisoned every character became by the potential of large sums of money. It was like watching a curated train wreck and I loved it.

I did think the reveal at the end could have been better. But I enjoyed it overall and will most definitely check out more from this author.
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,106 reviews1,744 followers
August 2, 2021
Who would want to kill Fred and Sheila Morton?
Or, should I ask-who wouldn’t want to kill them??

The family has gathered for the annual Easter dinner, hosted by Fred and Sheila, and patriarch Fred has an announcement to make.

One that his grown children are not going to like.

Eldest daughter Catherine and her husband, leave in a huff, followed closely behind by beleaguered middle child, Dan and his wife, Lisa. Even the former nanny/now part time housekeeper Irena is angry! Shortly after, their youngest daughter, Jenna and her current boy toy Jake say their goodbyes.

The following morning, when Irena returns to clean up, she finds the bodies, and it’s apparent that the murders of Fred and Sheila were brutal.

So brutal, that it looks personal to detectives Reyes and Barr.

All of the children were in line to inherit millions of dollars. But, would any of them kill their parents to hurry the process along?

There are a few others who had a stake in the early demise of the Mertons, giving us plenty of suspects to choose from, and what was really unique was that almost ALL of them were women!

But, could a woman be this ruthless?

The killer will not be the only cold-blooded character that you will encounter. Many of the suspects are unlikable, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.

Short, snappy chapters kept this moving along at a brisk pace! You never knew when another revelation might be dropped in a casual conversation so it was important to pay attention to ALL of the secrets and lies being exposed!

And, although I rarely like epilogues-this one put a smile on my face! 😉

A buddy read with Susan! Be sure to check out her amazing review!

I have now read all six of Shari Lapena’s novels, and have found them all to be entertaining! If you enjoy domestic suspense and haven’t yet read this author-it’s time to change that!

Thank You to the Chandler Public Library for the loan!
Profile Image for JanB .
1,127 reviews2,291 followers
August 4, 2021
4.5 stars

The not-so-happy-family here are the Mertons. Fred was a total jerk to everyone, but mostly to his children. Sheila, his wife, is a cold and distant mother, and failed to protect the children from their father.

They gather together for the Easter dinner from hell, where Fred makes an announcement that has all the children leaving hurriedly, angry and upset. Even Irena, the housekeeper who had been the children’s nanny, leaves. Audrey, Fred’s sister, missed the dinner, but she has a complicated history with her brother, and was my favorite character. Her loathing of the Merton children was visceral.

When Irena returns in the morning to clean, she finds a brutal murder scene, with both Fred and Sheila dead. There's no shortage of suspects among the children, and rarely has there been a more detestable group. All had a motive, and all have secrets. But they aren't the only ones. There's plenty of suspicion to go around.

It’s been said there are four motives for murder: Lust, Love, Loathing, or Loot. There’s no shortage of the latter two here. There are no tears shed for Fred and Sheila, but plenty of anticipation and elation at the thought of the inheritance. I loved how the author dropped little secrets/bombshells throughout the book about the characters, that made me see each of them with new eyes.

The police have plenty of suspects, but few clues. This isn’t a new premise, but I loved how this story unraveled, including a few surprising twists and a surprise ending. I think this would make a terrific movie!

*I prefer listening to this genre and the audiobook was narrated by Ellen Archer, who did an excellent job.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,470 reviews9,368 followers
January 29, 2023
What could be better than a holiday dinner with family?

Yoga class, walking the dog, your favorite pair of leggings, reading, online shopping, taking your bra off after a long day at work, sitting by a crackling fireplace, trying a new beverage at Starbucks, getting your period, going to the dentist...okay, apparently there are a lot of things that are more enjoyable to holiday dinners with your family...

You know what I'm talking about. You know.

Maybe you have too much to drink. Maybe everybody has too much to drink. Comparisons between you and your siblings come up. Maybe even the dreaded political discussion and the next thing you know, you're throwing on your favorite wool peacoat and storming out into the night in a huff of thinly-veiled rage.

I mean, I guess it depends on the family.

The family in this story, the Mertons, although wealthy, are not a happy family. Their holiday dinners get very messy indeed.

When the family comes together for this particular Easter dinner, things get especially uncomfortable.

The patriarch of the Merton family, Fred, seems to take great pleasure in making his three adult children, Catherine, Dan and Jenna, miserable. It's like he is actively trying to make their lives more difficult.

The night ends early, with everyone leaving a bit disgruntled. Ahhh, dinners with family, am I right?

The following morning, when Irena, the family's long-time domestic help returns to clean-up, she finds the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Merton. They've been murdered.

Now everyone in the family is a suspect. They all had a motive. Most of them had an opportunity. Who done it?

Going into Not a Happy Family, I will admit to being apprehensive. I've had a hit or miss relationship with Lapena, so had no clue how this one would be for me.

My favorite aspect was how the story was formatted.

The short, alternating chapters, made it an incredibly fast read and I was fully engaged. After each perspective, I was sure I had it all figured out.

Alternating between everyone, you get a full picture of what being a part of the Merton family was actually like. It wasn't pretty.

All of the children were treated poorly by their father and the mother never seemed to stick up for them. She certainly didn't put a stop to it.

Also, there's a large inheritance involved, so that always adds a layer to the motive cake.

With this being said, there were other players involved, so don't narrow your focus too much. You never know who could be out to get jerks like this.

From the very first chapter I was hooked into this story. Lapena wastes no time jumping into the nitty-gritty and it kept me guessing until the very end.

The audiobook was quite good. I definitely recommend that as a format to take this story in.

This is my favorite Lapena thus far and I am looking forward to reading more of her work!
Profile Image for Susan - on semi hiatus.
410 reviews111 followers
August 7, 2021
Pass the Buck!

Someone did a bad thing.

But who? Or was it a group effort?

You would think people on the edge of a financial windfall would be deliriously happy, or at least grateful in their security, but not these family members.

A well developed cast of characters were delightfully malcontent and rotten to the core which meant that I was on board with any one of them being held culpable for the misdeeds happening here.

The family theme was ‘More is More’ with the knowledge that a conviction would create a greater monetary share for the others with the portion being forfeited. Casting doubt became an occupation as they folded in on each other.

I loved this! It was a joyous shell game as I suspected each individual countless times while new information was revealed and lies exposed. The process encompassed the entire book and with the author’s minimalist writing style, it was a quick and easy read which really appealed to me.

So who was it? I’m not telling.

What I can say is that the only person happy was probably me.

Thank you to my local library for the loan.

Another thank you to Jayme for reading and discussing this with me as we were lucky with favorable timing for a buddy read.
Profile Image for Michelle .
861 reviews1,222 followers
August 18, 2021
Oooo boy this is one family tree in need of chopping down! 🪓

Two things that kept running through my mind while reading this: Liar, liar pants on fire (Yes, I am 46 years old) and you can't pick your family.

I did enjoy this as I do most Lapena books but I will say that the reveal and the epilogue were disappointing to me. I guess I just wanted something a little more shocking. 3.5 stars!

Thanks to Overdrive for my copy!
Profile Image for Kay ☼.
1,927 reviews637 followers
August 18, 2021
Count me in as a fan!! This is my third novel by Shari Lapena and I really enjoy her writing style. Her books are all quick reads and are rivetting! Although the ending of The End of Her really pissed me off, I still enjoyed it.

Not a Happy Family is a dysfunctional family whodunit mystery. I'm really digging these plots right now. No, this story isn't very original and reminds me of the movie "Knives Out", but I'm still entertained from start to finish.

"Maybe you should just tell them the truth."

Truth is.... everyone here lies. I couldn't figure out who killed Fred and Sheila Merton after Easter dinner. The Mertons are dead inside their home and their bodies were found the next day by the housekeeper. All three adult children are interested in the big inheritance so they sure have the motive and are being untruthful. They also don't trust one another which adds another layer of suspense.

Needless to say, when the killer's revealed, I was not too happy and my first response was "really??". But the epilogue is pretty damn sweet!! 😁😉
Profile Image for myo ✧༺ ༘♡ ༻∞.
700 reviews6,256 followers
August 1, 2021
the plot twist wasnt that good, it was pretty predictable which sucks because i spent the entire book being so shocked by the twists and turns just to get to the end and be let down. i noticed in another book i read by this author that the plot twists at the end aren’t very twisty and in both books it was pretty obvious who it was and it was like the author was trying to throw you off on who it was, with both books. it just feels really repetitive. i’m also confused on why the person killed the Shelia and Fred, like it was explained in the book it just wasn’t good enough imo.
Profile Image for Tina.
2,389 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2023
This is a Psychological Thriller. I loved this book so much, and I really enjoyed how this book kept me guessing. This is a real who did it book. While looking for who killed a rich couple their secrets and their kids secrets slowly unfolds. I have to say guessing what a secret will be uncovered next was so much fun. This is not a dark psychological thriller, but it is more a family drama psychological thriller.
August 16, 2021
Short list of things that are solid:

1. Wood.

2. Steel girders.

3. An entertaining domestic suspense 'whodunit' from Shari Lapena!

She does it again...almost.

On the upside? Lapena always keeps her character list short, which I honestly appreciate. Too many thrillers and suspense novels get cluttered with a bunch of people who either don't matter, aren't interesting, or seem to exist only to serve as potential suspects. This tightly-knit family provided just enough options without a bunch of filler.

The downside? Since there are only so many characters to choose from...I felt I could eliminate the 'obvious' suspects at about 60-70%. I had a very interesting ending in mind that I was hoping would somehow be accurate (and provide me with the crazy twisted ending I was looking for) but it didn't come to pass.

I still had fun reading this one and will always pick up a Lapena novel knowing pretty much what to expect...although I'd be happy to be completely hoodwinked by her one of these days. This is another (mostly) zippy read and I'd certainly recommend it. And for the record, in case you were at all wondering...this is potentially the world's best title. There is NOTHING happy about this clan! 😉

4 ⭐
September 23, 2021
Fast paced mystery!

I listened to this one as an audiobook, and from the beginning, I just couldn't stop listening. It is divided into short sections, which made me compulsively keep listening as more clues were uncovered.

We start off knowing that Fred and Sylvia Merton are dead. Who killed them and why is the central mystery. Well, pretty much everyone who was related to them had a reason to, as Fred was a first class jerk to his three children and Sylvia stood by and let it happen. The Mertons are uber-wealthy and each of the three children (as well as Fred's sister and another surprise person) are due to inherit a great deal of money from the estate. The police aren't buying that the brutal murders were a robbery gone wrong, yet they can't seem to come up with evidence as to who committed the crimes. Each of the children have motive and possible opportunity. Secrets upon secrets are revealed as they try to piece together the solution.

Although this is a mystery, it is also a family drama and as things are being uncovered, so many people are hiding things from each other. You don't know who to trust and with the short sections from each character's POV, that trust changes page by page. I was really entertained by this book and found this to be the best book I've read by this author in quite a long time. The pacing and characterization were spot on and kept me engaged.

Profile Image for Joey R..
236 reviews299 followers
December 11, 2021
3.0 stars— “Not a Happy Family” is the fifth book I have read by Shari Lapena. This makes the third book of hers that I rated 3 stars, and I rated one 1 star so this will probably be the last Lapena book I will read for a while. I think after 5 books I finally figured out why I am middle of the road when it comes to reviewing her books: it is that her books read like a Wikipedia version of a good thriller. To say that the narrative is stripped down is an understatement. It is definitely difficult to connect to any of the characters when all you get is the briefest snapshot of their lives. Even though the plot of her books are always fast paced, the dialogue is stilted and when not invested in the characters it is very hard to really enjoy the story. “Family” begins with the murder of Fred and Sheila Merton (who are despised by their kids) which causes them all to become suspects based on their lies, suspicious actions and motive to get their hands on their several million dollar inheritance. All of the characters are suspects and the author does a great job of keeping the reader guessing til the end. However, based on the problems I addressed above I just couldn’t get fully involved with the story or characters so 3 stars it is
Profile Image for Liz.
1,961 reviews2,411 followers
December 8, 2021
Oh, what a deliciously wicked mystery. The book starts with the murdered bodies of Fred and Sheila Merton. It’s the Tuesday after Easter; an Easter that was a contentious family gathering. Fred is such a nasty man, I would have wanted to do him in. And his wife was the total wuss, letting him get away with all his nastiness. So the question is, who murdered them? One of his three children that he psychologically tortured, especially at that last dinner? His sister? Or someone else?
As you would expect when dealing with rich parents, the will quickly rises to the forefront. This mystery doesn’t break new ground, but it does a great job traveling the familiar path. With each chapter and new information revealed, Lapena kept me guessing who might have been behind the murders. Everyone is lying about something. While the siblings and their spouses start off as a united front, that doesn’t last long. I loved how the characters all suspect each other, even spouses. It just goes to show how little we really know those nearest and dearest to us.
This was just great entertainment. It’s a book I wanted to find as many hours a day as possible to listen to. I tore through it. I had no clue who committed the murders. Such a great ending!
Ellen Marcher narrated and did a great job.
Profile Image for Allison Faught.
292 reviews134 followers
April 4, 2022
If you’re the type to play detective, this will be the book for you! So many shady and unpredictable characters to choose from. Who could it be?? 🧐
I had a lot of fun with this one as my mind kept changing through each of the different suspects and even through those who didn’t seem so guilty.
Although, the book is a tad lengthy, I felt the story was continuously driven forward. I was anxious to see who the killer was and everyone seemed to have a past that couldn’t be overlooked.
I felt a bit underwhelmed by the last couple chapters, but the epilogue was really good!
This was my first novel by Lapena and I own The Couple Next Door so I am excited for that to be my next read by this author!
Shoutout to my Goodreads friends for putting this book on my radar!
Profile Image for Jayne.
483 reviews163 followers
August 18, 2021
Not as HAPPY as I usually am
after finishing a Shari Lapena book.

NOT A HAPPY FAMILY is a "whodunnit" that missed the mark for me.

The Mertons, a wealthy couple from upstate New York, are brutally murdered in their palatial home after hosting a contentious family Easter dinner.

WHO KILLED THE MERTONS AND WHY? Was it one of the couple's unlikeable adult children? All of the adult children would have inherited millions from their parent's death. Or was it the housekeeper/nanny, a friend/colleague......or someone else?

The Merton family puts the word FUN in the word "dysfunctional"; making this "whodunnit" mystery challenging to solve.

Each family member(including the deceased couple) was repugnant, loathsome, and distasteful in different ways. One or more members of the Merton family is possibly a psychopath.

I listened to the audiobook and while listening to this book, I felt like I was on a merry-go-round. Instead of the story moving in a straight-line trajectory (with Lapina's signature twists), the book kept on going back-and-forth in circles, spotlighting the three adult children and possible other suspects.

When the storyline was recircling, many times I felt that the text was repetitive and drawn out, like the author had a word count to meet.

Fortunately, the book's ending was strong and this helped elevate this book's star rating.

Since Shari Lapena is one of my favorite authors, perhaps my expectations were set too high. This being said, I will certainly be eagerly awaiting Shari Lapena's next book.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,822 reviews499 followers
July 28, 2021
This is my 6th try with this author. That is a ridiculous number of attempts considering that the only book I liked was “The Couple Next Door”. Sometimes I can be a really slow learner. Skimmed to end.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,198 reviews34.9k followers
December 29, 2021
With family like this, who needs enemies?

Fred and Sheila Merton have been murdered in their home in Brecken Hill in upstate New York. Earlier in the evening they had an anger inducing Easter dinner with their three children. Fred was not a nice man and he let his nasty cruel personality loose during their meal. Everyone scattered including their hired help. Now that they are dead, all eyes and fingers are pointing at their three adult children. They stand to inherit millions, don't they? They have something to gain from their parent’s death, right?

This was a fun book to listen to on audio. The narrator was great, and I enjoyed the stories off all involved - not just the siblings. I put on my super sleuth hat- not easy to do while driving and tried to do some detective work of my own. Who could be the heartless killer? What could Fred and Sheila have done to evoke the ire of a killer? Quite a bit as it turns out - well Fred mainly as he was not ever going to win a "Dad of the year" award.

I loved how the lead detective thought everyone he interviewed was the killer. There is a lot of scrambling, a lot of lies, a lot of secrets, a lot of trying to protect others while protecting oneself. There are a lot of liars with their pants on fire in this book. Not all that glitters is gold. Sometimes those who look like they have it all don't have much in terms of common decency.

Juicy, fun, and full of drama.

Another great read by Shari Lapena!

Read more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com
Profile Image for L.A..
371 reviews66 followers
October 23, 2021
What a scandalous bunch of liars!! The Merton adult children have lost their parents to a gruesome murder and they cannot get their stories straight. They stand to inherit millions or could lose everything.

Not your typical Easter Sunday dinner when Fred Merton demeans his children for their lack of industrious motives: One is a doctor, one has no job and the other makes sexual art forms. Their childhood mansion is also being sold. Within 24 hours, they are informed their parents are dead. An odd silent celebration occurs, leaving the field wide open for suspects and cause.

Don’t believe any of them because they are torturing their own conscious. I’m worn out from all the deceptions. This dark thriller will have you guessing until the final scene with an outstanding last sentence.
Profile Image for JasonA.
284 reviews50 followers
August 22, 2021
This one wasn't anything special. I liked the writing style and the plot moved at a decent pace, but the unlikable characters left nobody to root for. The biggest flaw was that the author spent too much telling, with very little showing. The best twisty mysteries drop hints the whole way thru; after a big twist, you can go back and find parts of the story that foreshadow what's to come. In this book, twists get announced out of thin air with very little leading up to them. The ending came out of nowhere and still doesn't really make sense, short of mental illness. I had a pretty good idea who the killer was, but only because the author focused on everyone but them for most of the book.

The beginning of the book was a bit of a mess. I think a dozen characters were introduced in the first ten pages, so it took awhile to figure out who was who. Once all of that gets sorted out, the book starts off pretty promising.

The middle part dragged on for too long with the family alternating between unconditional support and finger pointing to the cops every other chapter. Then the spouses start suspecting their significant other is the murderer based on little. It starts to feel like they married for money pretty quickly.

Speaking of money, at the beginning, they keep talking about how rich the family is, but they're only worth $30 million. That just seems really low, especially after the dad had sold his successful robotics company. While it's more money than I'll ever see, it isn't much in this day and age. Certainly not enough for the family to act like they're the Rockefellers after one generation of wealth.
September 18, 2021
4+ stars! A fast-paced, entertaining, page-turning domestic suspense novel!

I’m a huge fan of Shari Lapena and this latest release was another winner! There are three adult children in the wealthy Merton family. Their parents are found brutally murdered two days after their family Easter dinner. The children are shocked as they are pulled in for questioning related to the murders. There are plenty of secrets within the family making them wonder just who they can trust.

This was an extremely unique narrative tone for me. The story is told from a distant third person perspective, yet I felt fully connected and engrossed within this twisty and suspenseful tale. I loved the short chapters of this family drama that always left me on edge wanting to read “just one more”. My suspicions flew all over the place, suspecting every single character at one point or another.

Overall, this was a treat to read! I love this authors writing and am happy to report this lived up to my hopes and expectations. Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for my review copy!
Profile Image for ReadAlongWithSue .
2,651 reviews170 followers
July 12, 2021
No come on, own up, who killed Fred Merton. And who killed Sheila?

Now that’s exactly what I was asking all through this book.

It’s Easter Sunday. The scene is set.

Who dunnit?
Who murdered them?

Everybody……everyone is a suspect in my mind. No one has solid reasons they are all as guilty as hell. Good thing I’m not in the Jury!

This author is so good at weaving a tense plot that keeps the reader hanging in suspense.

The verdict?
It could have been anyone.
Profile Image for JaymeO.
359 reviews200 followers
August 16, 2021
Who killed Fred and Sheila Merton?

Not a Happy Family is Shari LaPena’s best writing to date! It is a whodunnit domestic suspense thriller that you do not want to miss. The Mertons are a crazy dysfunctional family, who are hiding secrets from each other, while pointing the finger at the others.

When Fred and Sheila Merton are discovered by their housekeeper brutally murdered the morning after Easter dinner, their children become the prime suspects. The killer must be someone close to the family, as they are murdered in a hateful rage. What happened at that fateful dinner? Each sibling has something to hide from the other, and their greedy, manipulative, self-absorbed personalities battle to keep secrets hidden. You see, Fred Merton was planning to change his will and everyone had something to gain from his murder.

Catherine is the oldest, most successful and favorite child. She wants the Merton mansion.

Dan is the middle child and biggest disappointment. He is the least favorite child and is having major financial troubles after his father sold the company that he was due to inherit.

Jenna is the youngest child and just barely tolerated by her parents. She is living off her parents’ allowance and leads an out of control, rebellious lifestyle.

Then there’s Rose…how does she fit into this family?

I furiously kept turning the pages of this thriller, full of twists and turns and plenty of suspects. LaPena successfully casts doubts on all of the characters and makes the reader suspect everyone throughout the book. This is a stay up all night, don’t want to put it down kind of read that will keep you guessing until the very last page. I did not successfully predict the ending, while I did have my suspicions throughout. I wanted slightly more from the reveal, otherwise this would have been a 5 star read for me. I predict that this book will be a smash hit for Shari LaPena and I can’t wait to read her next thriller!

4.5/5 stars

Please check out Domestic Thriller Night, where Shari LaPena discusses her book, along with Megan Miranda and Mary Kubica!


Thank you very much to Ben Petrone at Penguin Random House who kindly gifted me the ARC of Not a Happy Family in exchange for an honest review.
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