2021 Reviews · Book club · crime · mystery · new release · suspense · thriller

New Release Book Review: Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

Title: Not a Happy Family

Author: Shari Lapena

Published: August 3rd 2021

Publisher: Penguin Books Australia

Pages: 368

Genres: Fiction, Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Mystery

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 4 stars

The new unputdownable thriller from the ‘queen of the one-sit read’, multi-million-copy bestselling author of THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR. When an elderly couple are found murdered, could their children be responsible?

Every family has its secrets.

Fred and Sheila Mercer have worked hard their whole lives. And it’s paid off. They have a beautiful house in the dream neighbourhood and their three adult children have always had everything they could have wished for. The family has had it good.

But now, after a family dinner, the Mercers are dead. Murdered. Their children are devastated, aren’t they? Even as they are set to inherit millions. Surely a stranger is responsible and not one of them . . .

This family’s secrets are deadly.


A thriller and a solid domestic drama, Not A Happy Family is a modern mystery title, that will keep you up late at night. Engrossing, complex and perceptive, I had great fun trying to work out the identity of the killer of this tale.

In her sixth thriller, Shari Lapena looks closely at an affluent but very dysfunctional family, who are rocked by a double tragedy.  The Mercer family reside in the wealthy suburb of Brecken Hill. This elderly couple have recently gathered with their children for an Easter celebration, but the night ends tragically when they are both found murdered. The Mercer family have amassed quite a fortune, so when the patriarch and matriarch of this family are found brutally murdered, questions loom around who wanted this couple dead. Immediately suspicion is cast on the adult children. When detectives delve into this case and family further, they discover that the Mercers were not a happy clan. From childhood secrets, health issues and difficult relationships, so many issues surround this seemingly content family. Who had it out for Fred and Sheila Mercer? Why were they both brutally murdered? Is someone within this family fold to blame for the deaths?

I am a big fan of Shari Lapena and I was excited to see this one selected by our book club to read this month. With a lack of time on my hands, Not A Happy Family proved to be the perfect read to carry me through an evening of indulgent reading time. I really enjoyed the quick pace, flawed characters and the whodunnit element of this novel. It also reminded me of the recent film, Knives Out, a modern Agatha Christie style production.

Shari Lapena is quite the domestic drama and thriller connoisseur. Not A Happy Family represents Lapena’s sixth release in this genre and it was a cracking read! With plenty of suspicion, confusion, family politics, motives, deception, intent and hatred swirling around this novel, it was easy to stay involved in this one. Lapena keeps the reader on a taut course for the duration of the story. Lapena takes an addictive drip feed approach to deliver various clues as to who committed this terrible double murder. I know I hedged my bets on a number of different figures. Lapena fooled me for almost the whole length of this book, which was great!

Not A Happy Family takes on a shared form of narration, allowing a range of key characters to have their voices heard. I enjoyed getting inside the heads of each of her pivotal cast members. The gradual release narrative model of past secrets, dastardly deeds, evil motives and dark thoughts kept me completely in the loop. The Mercers are on first glance a successful family, but it doesn’t take long before Lapena reveals how awful these people are! They are a very flawed and nasty bunch to be honest! Lapena allows the audience to view all of them as possible suspects which adds a thick air of duplicity to the tale!

With a flooring epilogue that still left a question or two hanging, Not A Happy Family was a hit with my book club and I hope it will be for other readers out there too!

Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena was published on 3rd August 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Not a Happy Family, Shari Lapena, visit here.

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