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The Last House Guest
Table of Contents
About The Book
“Once again, Megan Miranda has crafted the perfect summer thriller.” —Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Time I Lied
The summer after a wealthy young summer guest dies under suspicious circumstances, her best friend lives under a cloud of grief and suspicion in this “clever, stylish mystery that will seize readers like a riptide” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) featuring “dizzying plot twists and multiple surprise endings” (The New York Times Book Review).
Littleport, Maine, has always felt like two separate towns: an ideal vacation enclave for the wealthy, whose summer homes line the coastline; and a simple harbor community for the year-round residents whose livelihoods rely on service to the visitors.
Typically, fierce friendships never develop between a local and a summer girl—but that’s just what happens with visitor Sadie Loman and Littleport resident Avery Greer. Each summer for almost a decade, the girls are inseparable—until Sadie is found dead. While the police rule the death a suicide, Avery can’t help but feel there are those in the community, including a local detective and Sadie’s brother, Parker, who blame her. Someone knows more than they’re saying, and Avery is intent on clearing her name, before the facts get twisted against her.
Another thrilling novel from the bestselling author of All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger, Megan Miranda’s The Last House Guest is a smart, twisty read with a strong female protagonist determined to make her own way in the world.
“A riveting read…from master of suspense, Megan Miranda,” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl) The Last House Guest is a smart, twisty read that brilliantly explores the elusive nature of memory and the complexities of female friendships.
There was a storm offshore at dusk. I could see it coming in the shelf of darker clouds looming near the horizon. Feel it in the wind blowing in from the north, colder than the evening air. I hadn’t heard anything in the forecast, but that meant nothing for a summer night in Littleport.
I stepped back from the bluffs, imagined Sadie standing here instead, as I often did. Her blue dress trailing behind her in the wind, her blond hair blowing across her face, her eyes drifting shut. Her toes curled on the edge, a slow shift in weight. The moment—the fulcrum on which her life balanced.
I often imagined the last thing she was writing to me, standing on the edge: There are things even you don’t know.
I can’t do this anymore.
But in the end, the silence was perfectly, tragically Sadie Loman, leaving everyone wanting more.
THE LOMANS’ SPRAWLING ESTATE had once felt like home, warm and comforting—the stone base, the blue-gray clapboard siding, doors and glass panes trimmed in white, and every window lit up on summer nights, like the house was alive. Reduced now to a dark and hollow shell.
In the winter, it had been easier to pretend: handling the maintenance of the properties around town, coordinating the future bookings, overseeing the new construction. I was accustomed to the stillness of the off-season, the lingering quiet. But the summer bustle, the visitors, the way I was always on call, smile in place, voice accommodating—the house was a stark contrast. An absence you could feel; ghosts in the corner of your vision.
Now each evening I’d walk by on my way to the guest cottage and catch sight of something that made me look twice—a blur of movement. Thinking for an awful, beautiful moment: Sadie. But the only thing I ever saw in the darkened windows was my distorted reflection watching back. My own personal haunting.
IN THE DAYS AFTER Sadie’s death, I remained on the outskirts, coming only when summoned, speaking only when called upon. Everything mattered, and nothing did.
I gave my stilted statement about that night to the two men who knocked on my door the next morning. The detective in charge was the same man who’d found me on the cliffs the night before. His name was Detective Collins, and every pointed question came from him. He wanted to know when I’d last seen Sadie (here in the guesthouse, around noon), whether she’d told me her plans for that night (she hadn’t), how she’d been acting that day (like Sadie).
But my answers lagged unnaturally behind, as if some connection had been severed. I could hear myself from a remove as the interview was happening.
You, Luciana, and Parker each arrived at the party separately. How did that go again?
I was there first. Luciana arrived next. Parker arrived last.
Here, a pause. And Connor Harlow? We heard he was at the party.
A nod. A gap. Connor was there, too.
I told them about the message, showed them my phone, promised she’d been writing to me when all of us were already at the party together. How many drinks had you had by then? Detective Collins had asked. And I’d said two, meaning three.
He tore a sheet of lined paper off his notepad, wrote out a list of our names, asked me to fill in the arrival times as well as I could. I estimated Luce’s arrival based on the time I’d called Sadie and Parker’s on the time I’d sent the text, asking where she was.
Avery Greer—6:40 p.m.
Luciana Suarez—8 p.m.
Parker Loman—8:30 p.m.
I hadn’t seen Connor come in, and I’d frowned at the page. Connor got there before Parker. I’m not sure when, I’d said.
Detective Collins had twisted the paper back his way, eyes skimming the list. That’s a big gap between you and the next person.
I told him I was setting up. Told him the first-timers always came early.
The investigation that followed was tight and to the point, which the Lomans must’ve appreciated, all things considered. The house had remained dark, since Grant and Bianca were called back in the middle of the night with word of Sadie’s death. When the cleaning company and the pool van showed up before Memorial Day—dusting out the cobwebs, shining the counters, opening up the pool—I’d watched from behind the curtains of the guesthouse, thinking maybe the Lomans would be back. They were not ones to linger in sentimentality or uncertainty. They were the type who favored commitment and facts, regardless of which way they bent.
So, the facts, then: There were no signs of foul play. No drugs or alcohol in her system. No inconsistencies in the interviews. It seemed no one had motive to hurt Sadie Loman, nor opportunity. Anyone who had a relationship with her was accounted for at the Plus-One party.
It was hard to simultaneously grieve and reconstruct your own alibi. It was tempting to accuse someone else just to give yourself some space. It would have been so easy. But none of us had done it, and I thought that was a testament to Sadie herself. That none of us could imagine wanting her dead.
The official cause of death was drowning, but there would have been no surviving the fall—the rocks and the current, the force and the cold.
She could’ve slipped, I told the detectives. This, I had wanted so badly to believe. That there wasn’t something I had missed. Some sign that I could trace back, some moment when I could’ve intervened. But it was the shoes at first that made them think otherwise. A deliberate move. The gold sandals left behind. Like she’d stopped to unstrap them on her way to the edge. A moment of pause before she continued on.
I fought it even as her family accepted it. Sadie was my anchor, my coconspirator, the force that had grounded my life for so many years. If I imagined her jumping, then everything tilted precariously, just as it had that night.
But later that evening, after the interviews, they found the note inside the kitchen garbage can. Possibly swept up in the mess of an emptied pantry, everything laid out on the counters—the result of Luce trying to clean, to bring some order, before Grant and Bianca arrived in the middle of the night. But knowing Sadie, more likely a draft that she had decided against; a commitment to the fact that no words would do.
I hadn’t seen the warnings. The cause and effect that had brought Sadie to this moment. But I knew how fast a spiral could grab you, how far the surface could seem from below.
I knew exactly what Littleport could do.
I WAS ALONE UP here now.
Still living and working out of the guesthouse.
The inside of the one-bedroom apartment was decorated like a dollhouse version of the main residence, with the same wainscoting and dark wood floors. But the walls were tighter, the ceilings lower, the windows thin enough that you could hear the wind rattle the edges at night. The ocean view was partially obstructed through the trees.
I sat at the desk in the living room, finishing up the last of the paperwork before bed. There had been damage at one of the rentals earlier in the week—a broken flat-screen television, the surface fractured, the whole thing hanging crookedly from the wall; and one shattered ceramic vase below the television. The renters swore it hadn’t been them, claiming an intruder while they were out, though nothing was taken, and there was no sign of forced entry.
I’d driven straight over after they called in a panic. Surveyed the scene as they pointed out the damage with trembling hands. A narrow weatherworn house we called Trail’s End located on the fringes of downtown, its faded siding and overgrown path to the coastline only adding to its charm. Now the renters pointed to the unlit path and the distance from the neighbors as a lapse in security, the potential for danger.
They promised they had locked up before leaving for the day. They were sure, implying that the fault lay on my end somehow. The way they kept mentioning this fact—We locked the doors, we always do—was enough to keep me from believing them. Or wonder whether they were trying to cover up for something more sinister: an argument, someone throwing the vase, end over end, until it connected with the television.
Well, damage done, either way. It wasn’t enough for the company to pursue, especially from a family who’d been coming for the entire month of August the last three years, despite what might be happening within those walls.
I stretched out on the couch, reaching for the remote before heading to my bedroom. I’d gotten into the habit of falling asleep with the television on. The low hum of voices in the next room, beneath the sound of the gently rattling window frame.
I’ve known enough of loss to accept that grief may lose its sharpness with time, but memory only tightens. Moments replay.
In the silence, all I could hear was Sadie’s voice, calling my name as she walked inside. The last time I saw her.
Sometimes, in my memory, she lingers there, in the entrance of my room, like she’s waiting for me to notice something.
I WOKE TO SILENCE.
It was still dark, but the noise from the television was gone. Nothing but the window rattling as a strong gust blew in from somewhere offshore. I flipped the switch on the bedside table lamp, but nothing happened. The electricity was out again.
It’d been happening more often, always at night, always when I’d have to find a flashlight to reset the fuse in the box beside the garage. It was a concession for living in a town like this. Exclusive, yes. But too far from the city and too susceptible to the surroundings. The infrastructure out on the coast hadn’t caught up to the demand, money or not. Most places had backup generators for the winter, just in case; a good storm could knock us off the grid for a week or more. Summer blackouts were the other extreme—too many people, the population tripled in size. Everything stretched too thin. Grid overload.
But as far as I could tell, this was localized—just me. Something an electrician should take a look at, probably.
The sound of the wind outside almost made me decide to wait it out until morning, except the charge on my cell was in the red, and I didn’t like the idea of being up here alone, with no power and no phone.
The night was colder than I’d expected as I raced down the path toward the garage, flashlight in hand. The metal door to the fuse box was cold to the touch and slightly ajar. There was a keyhole at the base, but I’d wedged it open myself earlier this month, the first time this happened.
I flipped the master switch and slammed the metal door closed again, making sure it latched this time.
Another gust of wind blew as I turned back, and the sound of a door slamming shut cut through the night, made me freeze. The noise had come from the main residence, on the other side of the garage.
I cycled through the possibilities: a pool chair caught in the wind, a piece of debris colliding with the side of the house. Or something I forgot to secure myself—the back doors left unlatched, maybe.
The lockbox for the spare key was hidden just under the stone overhang of the porch, and my fingers fumbled the code in the dark twice before the lid popped open.
Another gust of wind, another noise, closer this time—the hinges of a gate echoing through the night as I jogged up the steps of the front porch.
I knew something was wrong as soon as I slid the key into the lock—it was already unlocked. The door creaked open, and my hand brushed the wall just inside, connecting with the foyer switch, illuminating the empty space from the chandelier above.
It was then that I saw it. Through the foyer, down the hall at the back of the house. The shadow of a man standing before the glass patio doors, silhouetted in the moonlight.
“Oh,” I said, taking a step back just as he took a step closer.
I would know the shape of him anywhere. Parker Loman.
Why We Love It
“The Last House Guest features intense female friendship, dark secrets, and hairpin plot turns you will not see coming. It’s the perfect read for fans of Miranda’s previous books, and for fans of suspense writers like Ruth Ware, and Greer Hendricks, and Sara Pekkanen.” —Marysue R., Editor-in-Chief, on The Last House Guest
- Publisher: S&S/Marysue Rucci Books (April 21, 2020)
- Length: 368 pages
- ISBN13: 9781501165382
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Raves and Reviews
PRAISE FOR THE LAST HOUSE GUEST BY MEGAN MIRANDA
“If you want to sample the black humor of summer resort relationships, have breakfast at the local diner of a pretty coastal town like Littleport, Me., the setting for Megan Miranda's The Last House Guest. Dizzying plot twists and multiple surprise endings are this author's stock in trade, but she warms them up by establishing the close friendship between Sadie Loman...and Avery Greer...And, oh boy, does she ever know how to write a twisty-turny ending (or two, or more).”—MARILYN STASIO, New York Times Book Review
"Once again, Megan Miranda has crafted the perfect summer thriller. The Last House Guest is twisty and tense, with a pace that made my heart race. An edge-of-your-seat, up-all-night read."—RILEY SAGER, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Time I Lied
"No one can be trusted in the latest chilling thriller from master of suspense, Megan Miranda. The Last House Guest is a lightning-fast mystery, full of menace and unexpected twists and turns that will have readers on the edge of their seats. A riveting read!"—MARY KUBICA, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl
“This searing small-town thriller from bestseller Miranda (The Perfect Stranger) explores the complexities of female friendship and the picturesque fictions that money can buy...Sharply drawn characters both ground and elevate the bombshell-laden plot, while evocative prose heightens tension and conjures place. Miranda delivers a clever, stylish mystery that will seize readers like a riptide.”—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)
“The narrative, which flips between 2017 and 2018, grows increasingly tense as Avery, who is a surprisingly reliable narrator, gets closer to the truth...Most compelling are the class tensions between Littleport's year-round residents and the seasonal, moneyed tourists as well as the elusive nature of memory and the intricacies of friendship. An evocative…thriller.”—KIRKUS REVIEWS
“The vivid description of this isolated town sets the stage for the revelation of Littleport’s secrets...Miranda's exploration of how Avery's and Sadie’s lives intertwine give the story its depth. Fans of Michele Campbell and Mary Kubica, who like family drama supporting their suspense, will enjoy.”—BOOKLIST
Praise for ALL THE MISSING GIRLS
***A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER***
A New York Times Book Review "Editors' Choice"
"This thriller’s all of your fav page-turners (think: Luckiest Girl Alive, The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl) rolled into one."
"Both [Gillian] Flynn’s and Miranda’s main characters also reclaim the right of female characters to be more than victim or femme fatale… All the Missing Girls is set to become one of the best books of 2016."
—Los Angeles Review of Books
"Extremely interesting… A novel that will probably be called Hitchcockian."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Are you paying attention? You'll need to be; this thriller will test your brain with its reverse chronological structure, and it's a page-turner to boot."
"Intricately plotted… Ms. Miranda brings heightened suspense and a twist to this familiar scenario by telling the story, which unfolds over 15 days, in reverse chronological order."
—The New York Times
"Fast-paced and frightening, All the Missing Girls will teach you why it's dangerous to go into the woods alone at night."
"All the Missing Girls is the archetypal murder mystery, the kind it seems like everyone has been hungry for since Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and Paula Hawkins's Girl on the Train."
"A new spin on a classic 'missing person' thriller, All the Missing Girls is the perfect read for thriller fans."
"A twisty, compulsive read—I loved it."
—Ruth Ware, author of THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Darkly nostalgic.... Miranda takes a risk by telling the story backward, but it pays off with an undroppable thriller, plenty of romantic suspense, and a fresh take on the decades-old teenage-murder theme."
Praise for THE PERFECT STRANGER
"Miranda's eerie suspense thriller...smartly examines the slippery theme of personal identity. In a world where identities are regularly lost, stolen or sacrificed for reasons innocent and otherwise, it's not enough to wonder where Emmy has gone. We need to know who she is, if she is who she says she is—and if she exists at all."
—New York Times Book Review
"Fans of Gillian Flynn, Chevy Stevens, and Jennifer McMahon will devour this relentlessly paced and deftly plotted thriller... The story moves at a feverish, unfaltering pace, keeping readers just as perplexed as the characters."
"YA author Miranda, who moved into the adult market with All the Missing Girls, proves she isn’t a one-hit wonder with this exciting thriller. Its twisty tale with many layers—a little romance, great writing, and an awesome story line—will keep psychological suspense fans turning the pages."
"Solid plot... An entertaining read."
"An excellent second novel of psychological suspense…Highly recommended for fans of Alafair Burke, Gillian Flynn, and Lisa Lutz, and for all readers who like their female characters clever and resourceful, even when their best friends become their worst nightmares.”
"Fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train will blow through this new thriller."
"Megan Miranda does a terrific job in this book of creating and maintaining an atmosphere of menace and uncertainty. She skillfully drip-feeds the truth about Leah’s situation, hinting at what she’s running from and slowly fitting the pieces of the puzzle together – although it’s not until well into the story that we finally discover the nature of the terrifying events that set her on the path she’s now travelling."
—All About Romance
"The distinct and well-defined characters add to the suspense, complete with twists and turns, and will make the reader wonder."
—New York Journal of Books
"Fans of Miranda’s may rejoice, and those that haven’t read her work will have to start now. This riveting psychological thriller may leave you jumping at strange noises and sleeping with the lights burning, but oh, it will be worth it!...The plot here is taut and original, but the success of the story hinges on character."
—Seattle Book Mania
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