Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books
Date of publication: October 18th, 2022
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Audiobook, Adult, Suspense, Contemporary, Holiday, Christmas, Psychological Thriller
A rich, eccentric family. A time-honored tradition. Or a lethal game of survival? One woman finds out what it really takes to join the 1% in this riveting psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Something in the Water, Mr. Nobody, and The Disappearing Act.
Harry is a novelist on the brink of stardom; Edward, her husband-to-be, is seemingly perfect. In love and freshly engaged, their bliss is interrupted by the reemergence of the Holbecks, Edward’s eminent family and the embodiment of American old money. For years, they’ve dominated headlines and pulled society’s strings, and Edward left them all behind to forge his own path. But there are eyes and ears everywhere. It was only a matter of time before they were pulled back in . . .
After all, even though he’s long severed ties with his family, Edward is set to inherit it all. Harriet is drawn to the glamour and sophistication of the Holbecks, who seem to welcome her with open arms, but everything changes when she meets Robert, the inescapably magnetic head of the family. At their first meeting, Robert slips Harry a cassette tape, revealing a shocking confession which sets the inevitable game in motion.
What is it about Harry that made him give her that tape? A thing that has the power to destroy everything? As she ramps up her quest for the truth, she must endure the Holbecks’ savage Christmas traditions all the while knowing that losing this game could be deadly.
I came to on the parquet floor of the entrance hall, my face pressed hard against its antique wood, with the clear knowledge that this is not how Christmases should go.The Family Game by Catherine Steadman
I love to read thrillers. So, when I got the invite to review The Family Game from the publisher, I jumped on it. I was not disappointed.
The Family Game is a fast-paced book in New York City and an undisclosed estate in upstate New York. The book’s plotline centers around Harriet/Harry and her upcoming marriage to a billionaire heir, Edward. Edward has been trying to cut the strings to his family for years, but his forthcoming marriage to Harry has them back in his life. Harry, on the other hand, is thrilled. An orphan, she longs for a close family and loves that Edward’s family has taken such an interest in her. But things turn sinister when Edward’s father, the charismatic Robert, gives Harry an unedited book that he had been writing. The contents of that book shock and scare Harry, and she realizes that maybe Edward was right about his family. After a frightening Krampusnacht, Harry is very reluctant to attend a Christmas Eve celebration in upstate New York. But, following what she has heard, she needs to participate because Robert will reveal everything after the annual Christmas Eve scavenger hunt. One that Harry was told she MUST participate in. What is Robert going to show her? How is it connected to what she heard on the tape? And most importantly, will Harry survive the night?
The main and secondary characters were wonderfully written. They each added an extra depth to the plotline that helped with the storyline. Even the secondary characters, like Edward’s mother or Harry’s literary agent, had a depth that I enjoyed.
- Harry—I enjoyed her character. After being orphaned at a young age, Harry only wanted a family. And she was thrilled to get one with Edward. But, as with all thrillers, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I mean, you can’t have happiness in these types of stories for very long. So, when the other shoe did drop (and it dropped about halfway through the book), I wasn’t surprised. But, what did surprise me, was Harry’s reaction to it. She decided to play the game outlined by Robert but played it her way. I also thought her reactions to certain revelations were muted. But, as she stated throughout the book, she had PTSD. So maybe that’s why??
- Edward—I wasn’t his biggest fan during the book. He was hiding so many secrets. He did other small things (like not mentioning how frightening Krampusnacht was) that seemed odd. Take, for instance, Bobby’s death. Not only did he gloss it over, but he told Harry something different.
- Robert—Again, like Edward, I didn’t like or trust him. The way he went about telling Harry certain things was odd. Like recording a book on a Dictaphone. And an old one to boot. But, once I read the book, I got why he set everything up the way he did.
The Family Game fits perfectly into the thriller/psychological thriller genre. The author did a perfect job of keeping me on my feet reading this book.
The storyline with Harry, Edward, his family, and their games were well written. The author introduced me to Krampusnacht. While I knew about Krampus, I didn’t understand what Krampusnacht was. And I thought the Holbeck’s version was disturbing. I was genuinely scared during those scenes.
The storyline with Harry, Robert, and what was revealed on the Dictaphone was frightening. I loved that I thought the same thing as Harry up to the end of the book. That twist surprised me, as what that person did once the author revealed their secret. Talk about taking me by surprise!!!
There are trigger warnings in The Family Game. They are murder, talk of suicide, talk of drug use, talk of forcing drug use (is that such a thing?), terrorization by a mythical creature, and a graphic scene of a car accident and what happens afterward. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.
The end of The Family Game was a complete surprise. I was surprised to find out the scavenger hunt turned out the way it did. I also was surprised to find out what was revealed to be revealed. Saying that it took me by surprise was an understatement. But it also made sense. The scavenger hunt clue foreshadowed what was to come. It was a perfect but sad ending for this book. I also cannot wait to read the author’s next book.
I would recommend The Family Game to anyone over 21. There is violence and mild language. Also, see the trigger warnings I put above.
I want to thank Catherine Steadman, Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, and Ballantine Books for allowing me to read and review this book. Any opinions stated in this review are mine.
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