The Dinner Party
by R.J. Parker
My rating: 2 / 5
Four couples attend a dinner party as friends, but dark secrets are boiling just beneath the surface. A trust game pits husband and wife against each other, and the next day, two of the guests are dead, while the other guests are left to figure out why.
For a book that is meant to be “an addictive and twisty psychological thriller,” it didn’t provide many thrills. If the book had not started with the main character, Ted, fighting for his life, I don’t know if I would have gotten through it nearly as quickly as I did. As it was, I did want to know how it got to that point, but it was quite a chore to get there. And more than once, I got to the end of a chapter and had no real compulsion to continue immediately, like I’d expect to have in a good book, especially a good thriller.
All four of the couples came across dull and lifeless to me–not necessarily as individual people, but in their relationships. Ted and his wife probably showed the biggest spark of life, but that was likely just because he was the main character. As such, I had a difficult time connecting with anyone in the book.
After the first murder victim appeared, most of the suspense seemed to be attempted through Ted questioning things repetitively–like why the victim had died, if the person they’d suspected to be the murderer had really done it, and if “the game” was responsible.
And that brings me to one of my biggest gripes. This trust game that they played was silly at best, yet became far too pivotal in the book. Everyone but Ted basically decided that the police shouldn’t know about it, or they’d all be blamed for the death…I mean, just far too much emphasis was put on this party game. And worse yet, it turned out to be a big part of the underlying cause for everything.
In the end, the reason behind each death was weak and, frankly, boring. I had theories of twisty goodness that would be revealed at the end, but when it ended, and no exciting twists had occurred, I basically was left with my mouth hanging open, and not in a good way. No, I didn’t guess at the motive behind the killings, but that didn’t make it good. A few surprises and betrayals did come up in the second half, especially relating to Ted’s wife, but none of them delivered on the punch they set up.
For those who want to know about how clean a book is before reading–there are no sexual situations and no language whatsoever that I can recall. The violence and bloodshed does get a bit much near the end, but nothing more than I could handle (and my threshold is fairly low).
I really wanted this book to deliver on its twisty promises, but it was unimpressive. It wasn’t terrible, though, and I think there are those who will enjoy it. It just really wasn’t for me.
If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!