Cover Image: Death in the Family

Death in the Family

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Member Reviews

Great characters, all with interesting back stories that are carefully revealed throughout the book. I loved the premise of this murder mystery with nine people on a secluded island. Two investigators getting to know each other as they struggle to put the pieces together before anyone else gets killed.

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Review published on Goodreads, 30 January 2021:

I love me an atmospheric locked-room mystery, especially when it takes place in an isolated place with nasty weather approaching to really complicate the situation. DEATH IN THE FAMILY fits this bill nicely. It's a taut, suspenseful whodunit that gets more intense by the minute. The mystery is twisty and kept me guessing right up until the end. As for characters, our heroine is one of the few likable ones. The houseguests are a despicable lot with endless disagreements, jealousies, greedy plots, and nefarious plans. Honestly, I didn't care a whole lot what happened to any of them, although I did want to know Jasper's fate. Shana, though, is both likable and intriguing. Wegert gives us enough back story details to make her sympathetic and interesting but doesn't give us her full story, leaving depths still to be explored in further installments. Even though DEATH IN THE FAMILY is depressing and peopled with mostly awful characters, I still found it a compelling, well-crafted series opener. Because of this and the fact that I like Shana, I'll definitely be continuing with this series.

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Death in the Family was like playing a game of Clue.
It’s about a family on an island and two detectives who have to figure out who killed.

It took me until about half way thru the story before I really started to enjoy it.

I will be reading the next book in the series and hope it’s a little more action.

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Agatha Christie type mystery that seems to be coming back into favor lately. This was brilliantly written and I am amazed Wegert is a debut author. The perfect whodunit with an ending that leaves you excited for her next read. Highly recommend.

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I really enjoyed this modern take on the locked room thriller. This is the first in a series and I am very much looking forward to the next one. NYPD detective Shana Merchant has recently escaped being abducted by a serial killer, and we are slowly learning more about that experience, guessing it will continue on into book 2 and I am just fine with that. She is still strong even after what she went through and I loved that the author made her this way and not an unreliable protagonist. As far as the case which is the other main plot in the story, it was very well done, kept me guessing, and I loved the ending. I highly recommend this one and as I noted above, I cannot wait for the next one in the series!

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley for the digital copy to review.

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Shana Merchant has settled into her new job as a detective in rural upstate New York, a definite respite from the streets of NYC. With her fiancee and a new partner who grew up in the area, she's looking forward to some peace and quiet -- something she definitely didn't have in the city. When a murder is reported on one of the pirvate islands in the St Lawrence River, she is thrown back into an investigation that brings back some awful memories from her past.

Touted as a great book for fans of the movie "Knives Out", I was really looking forward to this book. While there are many similarities -- a mysterious disappearance/death, several very quirky family members who are definitely suspects, and a wily detective -- Wegert has written something a bit deeper and more psychologically disturbing. She has interwoven the current day murder mystery with Shana's past and the lasting effects of those experiences. At first, I thought this was a sequel that was dependent on the first book for the plot to make sense. I felt there was just too much missing information about Shana, but as the story progresses the past is revealed in disturbing flashbacks. And, of course, the mystery gets solved.

Although the comparisons to Knives Out and Agatha Christie are deserved, I just felt there was something missing here. I do know this is the first Shana Merchant book, and maybe if I read the second one I will become more invested in the character(s), but I just didn't really get attached to Shana or any of the others. The family of suspects were, in some cases, so indistinct that it took me until about 2/3 of the way through to really distinguish between the brother, the brother-in-law & the friend, and the girfriend with the strange name and the teenage daughter were just annoying (but maybe that was by design!). In any case, I just didn't really care what happened to Jasper (the missing/dead brother). Shana's backstory was much more compelling, so I may pick up the second book to read more of her story, but this one was just "OK".

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Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert was an excellent debut and such a great take on a locked room mystery. I loved the setting of the secluded private island during a storm and having it be all about one family made the book very dramatic and tense. It ended up reminding me a bit of a game of Clue mixed with the movie Knives Out and I absolutely loved that. Shana is an incredible female lead, and she's trying to solve the mystery of the missing man while at the same time grappling with her past and present. While the book is mostly about the case, there are also plenty of flashbacks to Shana's past. I really liked that we don't get her full story in the first book of the series, and I can't wait for Wegert to peel back her layers as a character and tell us more about her.

The audiobook of Death in the Family was really good as well, and the narrator Callie Beaulieu did a fantastic job voicing this. I saw that she is the narrator for book two as well and I hope to see her as the narrator for every book in this series. She breathed a lot of life into Shana's character, and I could listen to her all day long. There was a complexity to the plot that I was not expecting, and I was very impressed with how Wegert pulled everything together at the end. Suspense builds as the story moves, and even though I would call this a bit of a slow burn, it was still expertly paced and plotted. A great start to a series I just know I am going to love, and I can't wait to read The Dead Season!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Loved this family mystery with Agatha Christie and Knives Out overtones. I'm very intrigued by the protagonist's journey and even though the mystery in this book is solved, the back story of our protagonist continues and it felt like a cliff hanger ending despite knowing "whodunnit."

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Huge fan of Tessa Wegert and so thankful she also sent this great book to me for a tangible copy. Great cast of characters, and loved the premise! Couldnt put it down.

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This felt very Agatha Christie-y. Two police officers are called out to a family's island to investigate a missing person and probable murder. The horrible weather becomes a character as we figure out "who done it". The family is obviously hiding something and isn't' too keen on being found out. Definitely recommended.

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Right from the start I knew I was in good hands with Tessa Wegert. Her writing style just feels comfortable, intelligent, and intriguing. She introduced all the characters in this, essentially, locked room (locked house?) murder mystery carefully and slowly, as opposed to lumping them together all at once. This allowed you to really enter the world and be able to distinguish between everyone from the get go. I loved the classic trappings of characters trapped in a beautiful, fading mansion on a small island isolated by a raging storm; nothing makes me want to pull the covers up and dive in more! Our hero, Shana, has just the right amount of smarts and damage to make her intriguing and engaging. Not all of her damage is explained yet, which is why I suppose this book is listed as #1 in a series. I will be right on top of #2 to see what really happened to Shana and Bram...

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A Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert is a 2020 Berkley publication.

Fantastic locked room mystery with a dark edge!

The premise for this novel sounded good- just the kind of mystery I like. But I was in for a huge surprise when this book turned out to be one of my favorite mysteries of the year so far!

Shana Merchant has moved to upstate New York, to her fiance’s hometown, after a traumatic close call with a serial killer, while working as a detective with the NYPD.

Now working in a smaller territory, with her partner, Tim Wellington, a call comes in that a man has gone missing on a private island. Upon arrival, Shana and Tim find blood on the scene and are welcomed by the wealthy and nervous, Sinclair family. Yet, Tim is not really alarmed, suspecting a runaway case. But Shana thinks there is something far more sinister going on and that the Sinclair family may have a lot to answer for.

As Shauna works to uncover the truth, she also begins to face some hard truths in her own life...


It was a dark and stormy night...

No, this setup never grows old for me. As a pure mystery lover, locked room mysteries are my favorite- if they are done right.

Despite the comparisons to Agatha Christie, which are hard to ignore, this book is much edgier and atmospheric. Once I started it, I did not want to put in down. Everyone is a suspect- and I do mean everyone- which means the only person Shauna can depend on is herself. But, after her experience in New York, her confidence has taken a huge hit.

Even Shauna's fiance is less than supportive or encouraging, continually pushing for her dependence on him, rather than on herself, planting seeds of doubt. But she must rise to the occasion, and I enjoyed watching her character development, becoming stronger and wiser, while gradually revealing a complexity that was not evident at first.

The pacing is spot on, the suspense taut, and guessing game works the way a great mystery should- by keeping me guessing and on my toes! A few surprise revelations don't hurt either- and this book just happens to have a nice little last minute addition that will leave you wanting more, and eagerly anticipating the next book in the series!!

5 stars!

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This book reads like a good old fashion whodunnit!

A bloody bed, but no body. This is what investigators Shanna and Tim are facing on a remote island during a vicious storm that will only impede their ability to solve this mystery.

Just about everyone is a viable suspect and would benefit in one way or another from Jasper being dead. Shana and Tim have their hands full keeping the family from interacting with one another and off of their cell phones if they are going to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Lead detective Shana Merchant is an interesting character! She is smart, flawed, and unpredictable. Her past is slowly unveiled to us as the story unfolds and intensifies until just about everyone is at their breaking point.

This book is a good start to what I feel could be a great series!

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I just finished ‘Death in the Family’ by Tessa Weggert and it was so good!

It started like a normal mystery novel and then around the middle I wasn’t sure I liked where the story was going. I started disliking the main character and her view on things. But then something clicks and it ends up being really great.

Give it some time when you reach that weird part of the book. There’s a reason why it’s there. When everything fell into place, I finally understood so many things and the resolution of the mystery felt like one of the classics in the genre.

This is Wegert’s first novel and the first book in this series. I cannot wait to read more!

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Murder, millions and family strife are present in the core mystery of this novel. That isn’t the best part, though. The protagonist, Shana, is a New York City detective, who has upended her life to move to upstate New York to work a lower profile job in an area that is known for its low crime rate. She has been through the trauma of being drugged, kidnapped, and imprisoned by a serial killer. That backstory is hinted at, and finally recapped later on in the story. The primary mystery at the core of this book takes place a little over a year later.

Shana, and her partner, Tim, are sent to a private island to investigate the disappearance and possible murder of Jasper Sinclair. This mystery has a few twists, and it reminded me of an old fashioned whodunnit. However, what makes it exciting is Shana’s past that has scarred her. She doesn’t trust her instincts, and things go awry during her investigation. She seems to be on the verge of a breakdown. The author gives Shana such a rich inner voice, that, as the reader, you start to doubt Shana’s instincts, too. This makes it such a twisty, thrilling read. I was on edge. I began and finished this book in less than a day.

The fact that the bulk of the story is based on a private, secluded island, during a nor’easter lends itself to giving this story a rich, gothic atmosphere. There is no way off the island during this storm. That, alone, makes it an almost claustrophobic experience. This is a must read.

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Talk about family secrets! This is a great who done it murder mystery. In a small town in upstate New York Shana thought her hunting a killer days were over. Till they get a call that someone has gone missing on a private island in the middle of a terrible storm. However the house if full with family and friends of sorts. So getting to the bottom of it is a challenge.

I am loved this book and am excited to see what’s to come with the next!

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It's been a long time since I've read a good locked-room mystery, and to be honest, I suppose I had gotten away from them for a while. It's mostly because I so rarely find one to hold my ever-changing interests, but every once in a while, one comes along that makes me sit up and take notice. Death in the Family is such a mystery, and I get the added bonus of knowing there will me more to come. Rather than go into story details and risk spoiling it, I'll just tell you how much I enjoyed this one. It's very well written, and while Shana certainly has her share of things to work through, she's still a strong character, which goes a long way toward convincing me to want more of her in future books, The book does leave some questions unanswered, and I'm guessing that those will part of a continuing storyline as the series moves forward. I will add that if you're looking for an in your face, breakneck pace type of story, this is not it. Think more along the lines of Agatha Christie style - maybe a bit more grit than Christie, but the style is reminiscent. What it boils down to is if you enjoy crime fiction, and like me, you've been waiting for a strong female character to lead a series in the genre, this one is well worth checking out. I know I'll be watching for whatever comes next for Shana Marchant.

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I have selected this book for the mystery book club at my library. It has a fascinating cast of characters enclosed in a single setting together- reminded me a bit of Agatha Christie or Knives Out. Eerie setting, and great twists and turns make this a compelling read. I'd definitely check out the next Shana Merchant book.

I received a free ARC of this title from NetGalley exchange for an honest review.

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This book is perfect for mystery lovers who enjoy a locked in style “who dunit”. One where everyone is a suspect and you can’t trust anyone.

The story is a bit of a slow burn, but is done in a way where the reader is still engaged and doesn’t lose interest. I usually like my mysteries fast paced, but this one really worked for me.

My favorite aspect of the book was Shana’s character (the detective on the case). She is a complex character with an intriguing back story. This book is going to be a series that follows Shana and I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about her and the future cases she investigates.

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3.5 Stars

After a traumatic case, former NYPD Detective Shana Merchant is now a detective in upstate New York. She and her colleague Tim Wellington are called to the scene of a missing person. Jasper Sinclair was spending the weekend with several family members on their private island and disappeared from the bedroom he was sharing with his girlfriend. Tim thinks Jasper left on his own, but Shana is convinced the wealthy young man was murdered. When a brutal rain storm prevents backup from arriving to help Shana and Tim, it’s up to the two of them to investigate on their own. In spite of their different opinions on the case, Shana and Tim are working well together until events from Shana’s past threaten the partnership and may place Shana in danger.

I had high hopes for this book which sounded like an updated Agatha Christie mystery. It starts out that way especially when Shana and Tim become stranded on the island with all of the suspects. The author does a good job of describing the isolation of being on an island in a storm, cut off from everyone else. Unfortunately, almost all of the members of the Sinclair family and their spouses and significant others are very unlikable. Nobody is trustworthy, including Shana, her fiance, and Tim. This makes the solution of the mystery hard to guess, but since I couldn’t connect with the characters, I wasn’t as invested in the story as I would have been if there were more people to root for. I don’t want to spoil the story, but there is one character who stands out as a truly good person by the end of the book and that was nice to see. Others may have been innocent of murder, but were still hard to take.

The book is hard to categorize. In spite of the Christie-like set-up, this is not a cozy mystery. It’s more of a procedural with some elements of suspense. There are clues to what really occurred, but the story gets too complicated to be able to figure out the solution. In addition to what is going on at the Sinclair compound, Shana is dealing with the traumatic incident in her past. Parts of this come to light throughout the story as Shana remembers things that happened to her. By the end of the book, the reader has a better idea of what happened to Shana but there are a lot of unanswered questions which I assume will be addressed in future books. There are some interesting tense moments in the book, but I feel there was a lot of unrealized potential with the book.

~ Christine

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