Review: Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert

Title: Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A storm-struck island. A blood-soaked bed. A missing man. In this captivating mystery that’s perfect for fans of Knives Out, Senior Investigator Shana Merchant discovers that murder is a family affair.

Thirteen months ago, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant barely survived being abducted by a serial killer. Now hoping to leave grisly murder cases behind, she’s taken a job in her fiancé’s sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York.

But as a nor’easter bears down on her new territory, Shana and fellow investigator Tim Wellington receive a call about a man missing on a private island. Shana and Tim travel to the isolated island owned by the wealthy Sinclair family to question the witnesses. They arrive to find blood on the scene and a house full of Sinclair family and friends on edge.

While Tim guesses they’re dealing with a runaway case, Shana is convinced that they have a murder on their hands. As the gale intensifies outside, she starts conducting interviews and discovers the Sinclairs and their guests are crawling with dark and dangerous secrets.

Trapped on the island by the raging storm with only Tim whose reliability is thrown into question, the increasingly restless suspects, and her own trauma-fueled flashbacks for company, Shana will have to trust the one person her abduction destroyed her faith in—herself. But time is ticking down, because if Shana’s right, a killer is in their midst and as the pressure mounts, so do the odds that they’ll strike again.


Death in the Family by Tessa Wegert is an intriguing, old-fashioned whodunnit.

Thirteen months after a harrowing ordeal with a serial killer, Senior Investigator Shana Merchant and her fiancé relocate to a small town in Upstate New York.  The much slower pace and lack of serious crime is just what Shana needs as she continues to recover from her experience. With a nor’easter bearing down on them, Shana and fellow Investigator Tim Wellington are called to a private island to investigate the disappearance of Jasper Sinclair. Fearing the worst due to the amount of blood on the scene, Shana and Tim soon attempt to narrow in a suspect while they investigate what happened to the missing man.

Shana is still trying to come to terms with the lingering aftereffects of her kidnapping. She struggles with PTSD and flashbacks during the investigation into Jasper’s disappearance. Shana also lacks self-confidence in her instincts due to therapist’s less than encouraging diagnosis. After a couple of incidents which leave her doubting herself even more, Shana fears her future with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation is in jeopardy.

Shana is rather introspective as she reflects back on her kidnapping and aftermath.  While she implicitly trusts Sheriff Maureen McIntyre with the truth about what happened to her, she has not revealed any of her past to Tim. As the investigation unfolds, certain events demand an explanation and Shana is forced to divulge  her secrets.  But is she disclosing everything about what happened to her while she was in captivity?

Taking place over the course of a day, Shana and Tim’s investigation moves at a snail’s pace. Due to the storm,  they are on their own as they interpret the crime scene and scant clues.  The Sinclair family is not exactly forthcoming  during questioning.  Shana doggedly persists in her quest for answers and with each revelation, she is finally beginning to make progress in narrowing the suspect pool. With the situation becoming more volatile, will Shana and Tim catch the killer before it is too late?

Despite a bit of a slow start, Death in the Family is a compelling mystery with a flawed but appealing lead protagonist. The storyline is well-developed and the investigation into Jasper’s disappearance is quite fascinating. The island setting is very atmospheric and vibrantly springs to life. Tessa Wegert keeps the perpetrator’s identity and motive for the murder cleverly under wraps until the novel’s dramatic conclusion. I highly recommend this first installment in the Shana Merchant series to readers who enjoy police procedurals.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Death in the Family, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, Tessa Wegert

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