The House Guest
Publisher: Forge Books
Narrator: Stephanie Willing
Publication Date: 02/07/2023
My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)
The House Guest is another diabolical cat-and-mouse thriller from USA Today bestselling author Hank Phillippi Ryan—but which character is the cat, and which character is the mouse?
After every divorce, one spouse gets all the friends. What does the other one get? If they’re smart, they get the benefits. Alyssa Macallan is terrified when she’s dumped by her wealthy and powerful husband. With a devastating divorce looming, she begins to suspect her toxic and manipulative soon-to-be-ex is scheming to ruin her—leaving her alone and penniless. And when the FBI shows up at her door, Alyssa knows she really needs a friend.
And then she gets one. A seductive new friend, one who’s running from a dangerous relationship of her own. Alyssa offers Bree Lorrance the safety of her guest house, and the two become confidantes. Then Bree makes a heart-stoppingly tempting offer. Maybe Alyssa and Bree can solve each others’ problems.
But no one is what they seem. And the fates and fortunes of these two women twist and turn until the shocking truth emerges: You can’t always get what you want. But sometimes you get what you deserve.
Other books by Hank Phillippi Ryan:
THE JANE RYLAND SERIES:
THE CHARLOTTE MCNALLY SERIES:
Prime Time / Face Time / Air Time / Drive Time
About the Author
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the USA Today bestselling author of 14 psychological thrillers, winning the most prestigious awards in the genre: five Agathas, five Anthonys, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. She is also on-air investigative reporter for Boston's WHDH-TV, with 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. National book critics call her “a superb and gifted storyteller”; she’s the only author to win the Agatha in four categories: Best First, Best Novel, Best Short Story and Best Non-Fiction. Her newest is the page-turning standalone thriller THE HOUSE GUEST–a story of psychological manipulation exploring the dark heart of marriage and friendship—it’s Gaslight meets Thelma & Louise. Bestselling author Lisa Scottoline says, “Ryan is one of my favorite authors and THE HOUSE GUEST shows why” and Tamron Hall says it “kept me on the edge of my seat…” The Publishers Weekly rave review says, “Ryan is a master of suspense!” and the Library Journal starred review calls it "Binge-worthy.”
Hank is host of CRIME TIME on A Mighty Blaze and co-host of First Chapter Fun and The Back Room. She is a past president of National Sisters in Crime. Visit Hank at HankPhillippiRyan.com, Twitter @HankPRyan, Instagram @hankpryan and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthor.
Exceptional Authors. Standout Books. Elevator Talk.
INTRIGUING QUESTIONS. INQUIRING READERS WANT TO KNOW
"Behind the Book"
Hank, welcome and congrats on your fourteenth novel! We are delighted to have you back for the fourth time for our featured #AuthorElevatorSeries Ride, celebrating our fifth year. We cannot wait to hear more about your latest cat-and-mouse psychological thriller everyone is buzzing about, THE HOUSE GUEST.
Q. ELEVATOR PITCH: Give us your best elevator pitch for THE HOUSE GUEST.
HANK: THE HOUSE GUEST stars Alyssa Macallan—who is terrified when she's dumped by her wealthy and powerful husband. With a devastating divorce looming, she begins to suspect her toxic and manipulative soon-to-be-ex is scheming to ruin her―leaving her alone and penniless. And when the FBI shows up at her door, Alyssa knows she really needs a friend. And then she gets one. A seductive new friend, one who's running from a dangerous relationship of her own. Alyssa offers Bree Lorrance the safety of her guest house, and the two become confidantes. Then Bree makes a heart-stoppingly tempting offer. Maybe Alyssa and Bree can solve each others' problems. But no one is what they seem. And the fates and fortunes of these two women twist and turn until the shocking truth emerges: You can't always get what you want. But sometimes you get what you deserve.
Bottom line: Two smart women face off in a high stakes psychological cat and mouse game to prove their truth about a devastating financial betrayal. But which woman is the cat, and which woman is the mouse?
Q. DESCRIBE your novel in three words or less.
HANK: Gaslight meets Thelma&Louise. (See how I made that three words?)
Q. INSPIRATION: The spark that ignited the novel? Where were you when the idea came to you?
HANK: The idea came from the experience of an acquaintance of mine who said goodbye to her husband every morning as she went off to her office and he went off to his office, he was something like an accountant or an insurance salesman. Something like that.
His next big deal was always around the corner, and the next big sale was always about to happen, and she was incredibly supportive. I’m talking about – – a really smart savvy woman who thought she was happily married.
And then the police arrived at the door.
And turned out--wait for it--he had never been to work at all! The job was imaginary. And he had been home doing illegal things on his computer that I don’t even want to describe.
Now, that’s not what happens in THE HOUSE GUEST at all. Not at all. But it made me wonder: how well do we know the people who are sleeping next to us? The very ones we trust the most? Could they be doing something we have no idea about? And I found out a lot of fascinating info about that too— like the family of the BTK killer, and the wife of a hideous serial killer in Indiana. They had no idea what their spouses were doing!
But there are no serial killers in this book either. Either. It’s just about how even a smart person can be completely fooled.
Q. RESEARCH: Any fascinating research for the novel, or anything you learned along the way?
HANK: It's absolutely true that, according to researchers, women whose spouses are accused of devastating white-collar crimes have no idea what their spouses have been up to. They don't know until the police or federal agents knock on the door.
And it’s often true for violent crimes, too. Even the significant others of the BTK killer and Ted Bundy, and more, were absolutely unaware of what the person they were sharing their time with was doing.
So that's what I was fascinated by --could a wife possibly not know what her husband is up to? Or, even more, could she possibly be convinced that he's doing something wrong... even if he's not?
Q. WRITING: Do you have a favorite chapter or scene in the novel you enjoyed writing the most?
HANK: Oh, what a great question. I can reveal: look at chapter 6, when Bree makes a confession. And find the scene in the country club—which turned out to have so many clues and so much subtext, and people have said is laugh-out-loud funny. It may be my favorite chapter ever. Well, except for the ending chapters. Those were hard fought—and I stood and applauded
Q. TOPICS: Name 1-5 topics or themes addressed in the novel?
HANK: See if you can guess, with just these five topics, what the book is about.
Greed. Betrayal. Divorce. Female empowerment. Revenge. (Ooh, right?)
Q. UPCOMING: Can you share what you are currently working on or what is next in ten words or less?
HANK: IN ten words or less? No! 😉 But my upcoming 2024 book—you heard it here first—is One Wrong Word.
A PR consultant who manipulates the public with her clever words has the tables turned on her--and Arden Ward's reputation and job are ruined when a high-powered socialite accuses Arden of seducing her husband. It's not true! But what can she do? And she's given two weeks’ notice—with the promise from her boss that he'll never tell why.
Meanwhile, Arden has one last client—a woman whose husband was acquitted in a deadly drunk driving accident—but whose family is still brutally ostracized by the guilty verdict from the public. Can Arden save this family's reputation—and her own, as well? But wait-- was that fatal car accident really an accident? Everyone thinks so—until there's another one.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to add that we have not covered today?
HANK: I'm so honored that THE HOUSE GUEST got a starred review from Library Journal calling it “Binge-worthy”! And Publishers Weekly says “Ryan is a master of suspense.” There are endorsements on the cover from Lisa Scottoline, James Patterson, Lisa Unger, Lisa Gardner and more... how great is that? And it was chosen a “most anticipated thriller” by Criminal element, CrimeReads, BookBub, Goodreads, and the Washington Post. Whoa.
Don't forget to find me every Tuesday at 12:30 PM ET on Facebook on 1st chapter fun come out where Hannah Mary McKinnon and I read the first chapter of a wonderful new book out loud. Also! Find me on CRIME TIME on A Mighty Blaze Facebook page, where every Tuesday at 4:00 PM ET I interview an amazing author. We've had Mary Kubica and Brendan Slocumb and Megan Miranda and Anthony Horowitz and Lisa Unger and so many more—it’s so much fun, and we love all the readers’ questions!
Now, more from Hank, below. Up close and personal. . .
"Behind the Author"
BIRTH STATE? or (Country)
Libra. (Perfect for a reporter, right?)
FAVORITE THING ABOUT WHERE YOU RESIDE?
Well, right now, it is pretty hilarious. It is about four below zero as I am answering these questions. But usually, Boston is completely glorious, historic and vibrant and beautiful and something is always happening. I've lived here since 1983, and I am still in love with it.
I have always been in love with white tulips. My very favorite. But last year I was behind on my bulb ordering, and had to take the misfit tulips from the catalog --just the ones that were leftover that no one wanted. And it turned out to be a glorious array of multicolored chaos, and it was absolutely fantastic. So my favorite flower is tulips now, any color. And all colors!
FAVORITE KITCHEN/COOKING/HOME/GARDEN PRODUCT OR TIP
Oh, listen to this. Have you ever tried to core a strawberry with a straw? Stab a straw through the pointy bottom end of the strawberry, and push, and the green top and the core come right out. It is miraculous, and magical, and so much fun. Try it. Let me know what you think.
If I could have absolutely anything? I would have... Pizza. But if that is too fattening, I would have fresh shrimp with cocktail sauce, grilled filet mignon, a pile of broccoli, and a glass of gorgeous Cabernet Sauvignon. Or, lobsters, roasted on the beach. Don't get me started.
Night night night. I know so many authors do their best work in the morning. But if I had to write at the crack of dawn like they do, you would find me asleep at my computer, head clonked on the desk. But I think it's because of working so many years as a television reporter-- when it approaches 6:00 o'clock when the early news is on, or 11:00 o'clock when the late news is on, my brain zooms right into high gear. So I am definitely a night owl.
YOUR FAVORITE LIFE LESSON QUOTE?
My husband and I don't celebrate the anniversary of the day we met. We celebrate the anniversary of the day before we met. And we call that “You never know Day,” because you never know what wonderful thing is around the next corner.
So I just think... que sera, sera. Whatever will be will be. And I try to count my blessings. Because it might be fabulous.
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC?
Oh, I love almost everything except... well, almost everything! From 60s from 40s from 40s music, Ella Fitzgerald to The Beatles, Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen and Linda Ronstadt and Taylor Swift and Lee Ann Rimes. Brandi Carlile. Folk music, too, and Broadway show music. Classical. All good. I am pretty easy to musically please.
IF YOU WERE STUCK IN AN ELEVATOR ALONE WITH ONE CELEBRITY, AUTHOR, OR CHARACTER— WHO WOULD IT BE? (Male or Female)
Anthony Horowitz. Lord Peter Wimsey. Inspector Morse. Harriet Vane. Janice Hallett, a new British author. Lisa Jewell, because I adore her. Edith Wharton—I have so many questions!
FAVORITE HOLIDAY OR SEASON?
Thanksgiving. I love when my family comes, I adore making the entire spread of a Thanksgiving dinner, and how it goes on and on. We play charades, and other games, and it's absolutely great. Plus you get to have leftover Turkey. And stuffing. Don't get me started.
YOUR SECRET TALENT?
I really have no secret talents. I can't really do anything except right. And tell stories, and I am a pretty good cook. I can also sing songs using only the first letters of each word. But that does not come in handy very often.
FAVORITE READING FORMAT?
I'm absolutely fine reading anything! it depends on where I am. I guess I gravitate to hardcovers, unless I am riding my treadmill, in which case an ebook is perfect.
FAVORITE TV SERIES? (Or Movie/Video) binge-watch, series, etc.?
The Wire. Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul. Line of Duty. Magpie Murders. Slow Horses. I could go on about this :)
YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO WRITE?
I am very happy in my office... surrounded by all my files and notes and treasures (A bottle of wine that Sue Grafton gave me, champagne from a treasured friend, a crystal hourglass from my stint as Guest of Honor at Crimebake, a framed snapshot of a long-ago cat), and sitting and my beautiful semicircular antique desk, where it's peaceful and familiar and cozy.
Ridiculously, I also love to write on airplanes. And I have finished two of my novels on JetBlue! I think it's something about being so enclosed, and so focused. I can actually write anywhere, though, by the swimming pool if it's not too sunny, in a coffee shop, outside on a picnic table. Amazing what a deadline will do.
NAME A BOOK TITLE ON YOUR BOOKSHELF OR NIGHTSTAND THAT WOULD SURPRISE YOUR READERS?
Oh, it would be so fun if you could come see the books! I'm not sure if it would surprise you... But I am reading everything about Edith Wharton--one of my favorites of all times-- right now.
WHICH OF YOUR BOOKS IS YOUR FAVORITE? WHY?
Impossible to say! I will say --I always try to get better, I give one hundred percent to each and every book, and I only hope that the 100 is a bigger and better 100 every time, you know? I challenge myself to be better, that’s part of the fun.
But there are no favorites, I love the first one, PRIME TIME, dearly for being the first one, and THE OTHER WOMAN for winning the Mary Higgins Clark award, and TRUST ME for being my first thriller, and on and on. But I love the new THE HOUSE GUEST for being, so far, the pinnacle of my writing skills. I’m absolutely in love with it. But wait, what about next year's book?
IF YOU COULD ELIMINATE ONE THING FROM YOUR DAILY LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Pressure. Stress. Is there a way for me to do everything that I do, since I love it all, without feeling pressured by it? Maybe instead of eliminating something, I could somehow add some hours.
HOW DO YOU RELAX?
I will let you know when I figure that out. :)
YOUR FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM? (Or would you prefer none of them)?
Oh I am doomed. Find me on Facebook, find me on Instagram, find me on Twitter. There you have it. Sometimes I adore it. Sometimes I don't.
NAME ONE THING YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF TO BE BAD AT?
I don't consider myself to be bad at it, I am empirically bad at it. Demonstrably bad. It’s: Singing. I know all the words to everything, but I cannot carry a tune at all.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE (OR LOVE STORY)?
My favorite horror movie is The Vanishing, a Dutch movie that came out in 1988. It is the scariest thing I have ever seen in my entire life, and I wish I could unsee it. (Not the newer version with Kiefer Sullivan. The real one.) (Seriously, don’t watch it. It’s too scary. Not gory! Just scary. I’m warning you.)
My favorite love story? The Philadelphia Story.
IF YOU WERE TO WRITE A BOOK ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD BE THE TITLE? \
YOUR FAVORITE SANDWICH?
Oooh. BLT on toast with mayo. AND avocado. YUM.
WHAT ARE EARLIER JOBS YOU HAD BEFORE BECOMING AN AUTHOR?
My first job was making dipped cones at the Dairy Queen. Then I was a proofreader at a publishing company, where I read the entire Indiana code of laws out loud. I worked as a staffer in a political campaign, then a radio reporter, then press secretary to a congressman from Texas, then a legislative aide on the Administrative Practice and Procedure Subcommittee of the US Senate Judiciary Committee, then a writer/editorial aide for Rolling Stone magazine, then a television reporter. And still a television reporter.
HOW HAVE THESE EARLIER JOBS HELPED YOU OR BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN YOUR WRITING CAREER?
Oh, I am the luckiest to have done every single one of those. They taught me how the world works, how people think, how to dig out a story, and how to tell it. They taught me about public speaking, and deadlines, and dealing with other human beings. Every single job I've ever had has been absolutely transformative and valuable.
GO TO A PARTY, OR A QUIET EVENING AT HOME?
AT WHAT AGE DID YOU CONSIDER BECOMING A WRITER?
Fifty-five. I wrote my first book at 55.
AT WHAT AGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO BACK FOR A REDO?
Nope, all good.
YOUR FAVORITE AGE (in your life)?
Now is fine! Tomorrow is also good.
THANK YOU, Hank, for spending time with us today!
Oh, you are incredible. I am so honored to be here!
Readers, be sure and check out all THE HOUSE GUEST glowing praise and my review, below. Also check out all her upcoming events and get this gem on your TBR list now!
Library Journal * Starred Review "Bingeworthy!"
Publishers Weekly "Ryan is a master of suspense!"
GOODREADS A Most Anticipated Thriller 0f 2023
BOOKBUB A Most Anticipated Thriller 0f 2023
CRIME READS A Most Anticipated Thriller 0f 2023
"Ryan is a master of suspense." ―Publishers Weekly
"THE HOUSE GUEST is great! Ryan creates memorable characters―then pulls off the nearly-impossible: she orchestrates half a dozen twists, turns, and backflips―and then sticks the landing. What a pleasure to read this!"
"An edge-of-your seat thriller! Ryan breathes new life into the classic Hitchcock tale with this dramatic cat-and-mouse set up, where you must race breathlessly to the end to discover who is the cat and who is the mouse. Will you see the end coming? I didn't."
―Lisa Gardner New York Times bestselling author
“Hank Phillippi Ryan is one of my favorite authors, and THE HOUSE GUEST proves why. This riveting novel twists and turns through the page-turning story...events turn shocking, with revelation after revelation in a thriller that never forgets to touch the heart.”
“Hank Phillippi Ryan weaves a twisted tale of love, revenge and betrayal. THE HOUSE GUEST kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.”
―Tamron Hall, author of As The Wicked Watch and Emmy Award-winning host of The Tamron Hall Show
"THE HOUSE GUEST is a thriller-lover’s treat! Propulsive, smart, twisty and impossible to predict. Ryan brilliantly ramps up the tension, and skillfully draws the reader deep into the lives of the wealthy, the vulnerable and the betrayed, keeping you guessing right up to the end."
―Gilly Macmillan, Internationally bestselling author of The Long Weekend
“In THE HOUSE GUEST, Hank Phillippi Ryan expertly leads you down one path only to spin you on your head and send you down ten others. With red-herrings and twists and turns galore, you’ll be switching allegiances from one moment to the next, and you still won’t guess the ending. Compulsive and absorbing, this is a fast-faced, highly intriguing and binge-worthy read.” ―Hannah Mary McKinnon, internationally bestselling author of Never Coming Home
“Ryan is at the top of her game in this fiendishly clever, rocket-paced thrill ride. But as in all great thrillers, the propulsive story and hairpin turns are just the beginning. THE HOUSE GUEST is also a deep dive into friendship, loyalty, and wresting back your power from a dangerous man ― even when he’s your husband. Another stellar outing for powerhouse Ryan.”
―Lisa Unger New York Times Bestselling Author
"Ryan does it again with this clever cat-and-mouse chase of a mystery that will keep you flipping the pages until the deliciously twisty end. The House Guest is a riveting read-straight-through novel of suspense!"
―Wanda M. Morris, award-winning author of All Her Little Secrets
"Be careful when you open your heart―and your home. Hank Phillippi Ryan is a master storyteller, and THE HOUSE GUEST is an unputdownable spellbinder: with love lost, deceit, and revenge. THE HOUSE GUEST will have you looking over your shoulder and locking your doors. Absolutely first rate."
―Heather Gudenkauf, NYT bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and The Overnight Guest
"An expert in twists and a master of tantalizing suspense, Hank Phillippi Ryan kept me guessing from beginning to end in The House Guest. Gorgeous descriptions, sparkling with Ryan's hallmarks of glamour, wealth, and power, and characters you aren't sure you can trust, this stellar cat-and-mouse read takes you on a thrill ride. An incredibly clever, captivating story that enthralls and surprises on every page."
―Samantha M. Bailey, USA Today and #1 national bestselling author of Watch Out For Her
“The House Guest is a tantalizing, beguiling thriller. This book has everything...suspicious strangers, a cat and mouse game between a husband and wife, and so many surprising twists. Hank Phillippi Ryan has done it again!”
―Samantha Downing, internationally bestselling author of My Lovely Wife
Rock-star bestselling author Hank Phillippi Ryan (a favorite, with more Emmy Awards than you can count) and the "queen of cat-and-mouse thrillers" returns following Her Perfect Life with her latest sizzler—THE HOUSE GUEST —where no one or nothing is as it appears.
Who is the cat, and who is the mouse? Who will wind up in the mouse trap? You will be guessing—until the final page —with twists so sharp you are liable to get whiplash!
Alyssa (Alice) Westland Macallan —is an almost-divorced thirty-five-year-old. She dropped out of law school and gave up her identity (even her name) when she married Bill (15 yrs older) eight years ago.
Bill, a big-time charity fundraiser, turns out to be keeping some of these funds for himself—naughty, naughty—She was Bill's possession.
He has decided to leave Alyssa, and she is left in the big house, setting traps to ensure he does not enter while she is away. Plus, she has the funny imaginary dog barking alarm and the hidden closet — She no longer trusts him even though they have an agreement. He is manipulative and charming.
She has no friends because Bill's friends are loyal to him, especially the Weston, MA, country club set. She never knows when her card will be declined—since Bill pulls all the strings. She is still determining if she will have any money.
Lonely, she goes to Vermilion, a local bar, and meets a thirtysomething woman, Bree Lorrance. She is staying in a hotel (a banker) and running from an abusive relationship and a horrible boss.
Alyssa acts impulsively and offers Bree to stay in her guest house. She does not know her, but they may become friends. She will keep her company.
Someone calls Bree's cell phone from an unknown number, and Alyssa encourages her to answer and see who it is. She also encourages her to follow up on a DNA/ancestry database her mom gave her. This leads her to Dez, an attorney who has been trying to track her down.
Then FBI agent Hattie Parker comes knocking at her door.—Most of Bill's fundraising(turns out) for charity went to lining his own pockets, and the FBI thinks Alyssa knows more about it. Can she trust the FBI agent? Is she being set up?
She and Bree become BFFs, but can she trust her?
Every story had a secret, and every storyteller had a motive.
Life with Bill had shown Alyssa the destructive side of affluence. It bred only the relentless desire for more of everything. And the constant terror loss. What will a wife do for her husband, even an ex-husband?
Alyssa turns to her old friend, Mickey, now an attorney, for help. Is she being set up by Bill, Dex, Parker, or Bree? Who is Collin Whishaw?
Dex and Bree become engrossed in all aspects of Alyssa's life. From unreliable narrators to back-and-forth twists, where your loyalties will change more than a ball in a tennis match. Then there is Bill.
Trust NO ONE! Who is being duped? Kickbacks. Illegal. Forfeiture. Inheritance. Extortion. Twenty-two million dollars.
THE HOUSE GUEST —is a fiendishly clever standalone thriller of psychological manipulation that explores the dark heart of marriage and friendship—Gaslight meets Thelma & Louise. A whodunnit that will keep you guessing until the final page from the rock star of cat-and-mouse suspense. You do not want to miss this one!
You do not know where Hank is taking you, but trust me, get on board—do not concern yourself with the destination, but enjoy the journey—it is one wild ride! All will become clear with the wicked satisfactory conclusion.
THE HOUSE GUEST is an insanely intense ultimate rollercoaster reading experience. From fun, Hitchcockian movie references (Gaslight, The Birds, Strangers on a Train, Rear Windows, and Thelma & Louise) to twists and jaw-dropping surprises. No one does clever, twisty, intelligent, diabolical cat-and-mouse thrillers better than HPR!!
Stay tuned for my #AuthorElevatorSeries Q&A Interview with Hank—upcoming Feb 7th, where we go behind the scenes of the author and the book.
Pub Date: Feb 7, 2023
My Rating: 5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Stars
Check out my previous #AuthorElevatorSeries
Interviews with Hank!