Stuart R. West is a new author for me, so I went into Dread and Breakfast not knowing what to expect. I only knew that the cover was awesome! And it didn't take long to realize that the book I was reading was equally as awesome!
West doesn't waste words with lengthy buildup before getting into the heart of the story. From page one, where a girl is murdered during what the killer describes as "date night", we're thrust right into the thick of things.
We've seen the premise before: a group of strangers are forced to take shelter from a storm under the same roof, and while outwardly all the characters seem harmless enough, they all harbor dark secrets, some darker than others. And because of that, the rest of the "guests" are in jeopardy with little chance of escaping, thanks to what the weathermen are calling the Storm of the Century. You have a young newlywed couple eager to start their new life together; young mother and her daughter fleeing from an abusive husband; a nerdy accountant who has absconded with a tidy sum of his boss's money; a security consultant who sometimes takes side jobs for his boss -- all of whom take shelter at the Dandy Drop Inn, an establishment owned by a sweet elderly couple, Jim and Dolores Dandy, and run by their adopted son, Christian. The only guests with reservations are the newlyweds; the others are forced to seek shelter when the storm makes driving conditions too dangerous to stay on the road. Think Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap.
As if this cast of characters isn't enough, West sets up a collision course at the inn with a rogue cop seeking to get his wife and daughter back and a betrayed mafia don out for revenge on the man who stole his money and the hit man who teamed up with the thief to split the money and run.
As the snow builds up on the outside, the body count builds up on the inside. Who is smart enough, strong enough, driven enough, to survive the bloodshed and see the storm through to the end.
Dread and Breakfast is a fast-paced thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat until the very end. The characters are all likable -- well, most of them anyway -- and have a certain charm that will have you rooting for them as they try every avenue of escape possible, only to be cut off (some literally) by the killer. And just when you think you have it all figured out and know who is going to survive, BAM! West delivers a twist you will not see coming and which once again will leave you wondering who will live and who will die.
As I said, Dread and Breakfast was my first West novel, but it definitely won't be my last. I highly recommend this one. Guaranteed, once you've picked it up, you won't want to put it down.