Trying to be a good older brother and best man, Richard Chapman offers his home for his younger brother’s bachelor party. But Richard couldn’t know that the “entertainment” for the evening wouldn’t be mere strippers but instead Russian sex slaves who were looking to exact a piece of revenge on their captors and escape. Before the night is over, Richard will endanger his marriage, find his home a crime scene and his world collapsing around him.
The first two-thirds of Chris Bohjlian’s The Guest Room is a fascinating, dark story of people trying to make good decisions under the worst possible circumstances. Chapters alternate between the backstory of one of the young girls who is preyed upon by her captors and forced into a life of selling her body for money and the events current unfolding during and after the infamous bachelor party. As with many of the best crime writers today, Bohjalian is less concerned with the who-done-it aspect of the crime and more interested in the impact of the crime upon his characters and their community.
As Richard finds his world collapsing around him (his wife mistrusts him, he’s put on suspension at work and one of his brother’s friends tries to blackmail him), we see how the crime and its implications have far reaching tendrils both before and after the murder of the two men sent to guard the two sex workers.
At its best The Guest Room is a compelling, character driven, page-turner that offers up a fascinating dilemma without any easy ways out of it. Well, that is until we get to the last third of the novel when things take a turn that feels like it’s right out of a Hollywood blockbuster and not the well-established and realized world that Bohjalian has created to that point. It’s not the ending is terrible so much as it’s a disappointment. Richard begins to make decisions to get his life back and I’d hoped to see more of the implications of that than the ending we got here.
I’m being vague here to avoid SPOILING too much of this novel because I really think the first two-thirds of the story are worth reading. It’s just the last third that let me down.