The Uninvited Guests

Set in an English country house a train ride away from London, Uninvited Guests is the story of a lovable but dysfunctional upper class British family. Charlotte Swift is in her second marriage to Edward. They are living in the house, called Sterne, her first husband bought when he decided he wanted the life of a country gentleman. The Swifts are in danger of losing the house as Edward is not the moneyed man Torrington was. He is also reviled by his step children, Emerald, Cloris (a particularly vile 20 year old male) and Smudge - real name Imogene.

The story takes place over the course of 24 hours. It is Emerald's birthday, Edward has gone to London to arrange financing for the house and Charlotte is in her usual swoon. Smudge meanwhile is planning her own surprise. Apparently she likes to draw outlines of animals on her bedroom walls in charcoal and she has just the next animal in mind.

Just as the party is getting underway the house members receive word of a major train crash with injuries. The survivors need to be housed somewhere and there are no hotels in the area so Sterne is pressed into service. The survivors show up injured and bedraggled. They are shown into the house. But after the first group arrives a single man shows up, a Charlie Traversham-Beecher. He claims to know Charlotte, was a friend of hers when she was younger. He doesn't look like he was just in a train wreck, he's dressed for a party. This is where the book gets interesting.

The story line continues through the evening. The survivors are in the house, Charlie is in the house, drinking with Cloris and everything is in a tumult. People must be served food, no one has any information from the rail company and just what does Charlie Traversham-Beecher know about Charlotte anyway? The there is little twist at the end that came as a surprise to me. It didn't detract from the story, in fact it tied it together nicely.

In the spirit of Downton Abby and Upstairs Downstairs, the book deals with the lives of an upper class British family, their ways and secrets. It is a nice play on the morals of the time as well. I recommend this book.

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