Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins for giving me a copy of this eARC in exchange for my honest review!
What’s new, everyone? Ellery Lloyd, the pseudonym for husband-and-wife writing team Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos, has just published their newest thriller, The Club. It revolves around the Home Group, a global organization of deluxe celebrity clubs that provide vacation spots for its famous and wealthy clientele to hobnob with their kind and take refuge from the public’s invasiveness. Managed by the charismatic yet violently temperamental CEO Ned Groom and his brother Adam, the Home Group is launching its latest club, Island Home, on a private island right off the coast of London. Invites are sent out to several guests, including a Hollywood actor couple, a talk show host, and an up-and-coming film producer. But as it turns out, these patrons are harboring dark secrets that are about to collide with the dubious pasts of Island Home’s very own personnel and leave bodies in their trail.
**Trigger Warning** Readers, please beware this book’s depiction of murder, sexual abuse, pedophilia, alcoholism, drug abuse, car accidents, and parental death.
Having enjoyed People Like Her, the Instamom thriller with which Lloyd debuted last year, I was keen to dive into The Club, which Reese’s Book Club selected as their March 2022 pick. However, I was deeply concerned for almost the entirety of the plot’s sluggishly paced first half. This section sets up the ensemble of Home’s guests and employees in a fashion that breaks the ever-important “show, don’t tell” writing rule. It spends too much time telling us about their backstories and their relationships with everybody in the VIP establishment via an alternating third-person POV with which I found hard to connect. If this tedious first half had been condensed, it would have been quicker to reach the immensely more riveting second half of the book.
It doesn’t help that snippets of a Vanity Fair article that’s issued in the aftermath of Island Home’s opening are interspersed throughout the plot, giving away increasingly informational hints as to who died and how their tragic losses transpired. It’s meant to ratchet up the tension, but it only contributes to the first half’s dawdling nature
Like I said, though, The Club drew me in once the second half started. Fitting, since that’s when the threads of everyone’s individual subplots intertwine and you really begin to learn what messed-up crap the complicated characters are hiding. Aside from Ned’s personal assistant Nikki Hayes and Island Home’s head of housekeeping Jess Wilson, the only ones I truly rooted for (and kept mixing up until the second half, which apparently happened to other readers as well), almost everyone else belongs on varying levels of the slimeball scale. And that’s not a bad thing. Lloyd executes the trick of pulling you into a locked-room mystery that’s full of well-written douchebags without causing you to feel like they’re so unbearably unlikable that you have to DNF the book.
The somewhat predictable climax is enjoyable nevertheless, while the denouement isn’t nearly as tidily wrapped up as I would have expected for a thriller. This latter point was probably a deliberate choice, considering a passage near the end that contrasts the murky and incomplete conclusions of real life with the clean and final answers of fictional murder mysteries.
Overall, The Club won’t knock your socks off, but if you’re a Lucy Foley fan, you can stand the first half’s slowness, and you want a thriller that thrives on the glitzy and shady facets of its characters, I recommend adding this to your TBR pile.
Until next time, stay healthy and stay strong!
Windup score: 65/100