The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
This latest book by Chris Bohjalian has many of the elements that his fans have come to like including pretty good writing, plenty of suspense and a surprise ending. While I don’t think it is one of his best, the Guest Room is an easy summer read, which many will enjoy. It moves quickly as we are introduced to Richard, a successful M&A manager who throws a bachelor party in his Bronxville NY home for his ne’er-do-well brother Philip. Turns out the entertainment for the party is a little more than he had bargained for – a couple of Russian sex slaves who murder their handlers and take off after engaging in sex with many of the participants.
Richard’s house is destroyed as is his reputation and his marriage damaged after the revelation that he was with one of the slaves although he claims there wasn’t sex. Most of the book is spent in the aftermath of the event with alternate chapters written from the perspective of one of the sex slaves, “Alexandra”. Alexandra was a fairly well developed character although I didn’t really buy her story and felt that there could have been more research into the minds of these kidnapped girls to make for a more impactful story. It’s a relevant topic in today’s world and I thought it was treated somewhat superficially in this book. In addition, Bohjalian decided to drop many “a’s “and “the’s” before nouns when she was speaking which was irritating considering her vocabulary was quite good. Her excellent command of the English language did not fit with the dropped articles.
Many of the plot lines, including the blackmailing are fairly predictable but the end surprised me. If you are a Bohjalian fan, you’ll probably like this not very upbeat book. If you haven’t read any of his novels, I would recommend “Double Bind”, “Midwives” or “Skeletons at the Feast” as alternatives.