Thursday Thriller Audio: The Family Game by Catherine Steadman

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Family Game by Catherine Steadman

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 2 of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Random House Audio (October 18, 2022)

Length: 10 hrs and 51 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Catherine Steadman

Some characters you love to hate, and some you just…well, HATE hate. I don’t usually mind the former; after all, unlikeable characters are what makes reading a thriller fun, and they often come with the genre territory. Regrettably though, the protagonist of The Family Game was an example of the latter. Everything she did, everything she thought and said was infuriating. So many times while listening to this audiobook I just wanted to yell, “Why are you so stoooopid?!”

But first, let’s back up a little and talk about the story. Meet Harriet Reed, our queen of dumb decisions. A British author who had just published her runaway debut, she moves to New York to be with her boyfriend Edward Holbeck, a successful businessman and the scion of the richest family in America. Of course, she didn’t know this about Edward when she first met him during a gala, and when one day he suddenly popped the question, it seemed Harry was on her way to starring in her own Cinderella story.

Except as it turns out, the Holbecks aren’t just crazy rich, they’re just flat out crazy. Edward had tried to warn her, and it was a big part of why he’d started distancing himself from the family business. But with the acceptance of his proposal, Harry will have to learn how to fit into her soon-to-be-new life of glitz and glamor. Not only do Edward’s parents have hopes for her to bring him back into the fold, they also want her to join in on all their family traditions. It’s the holidays, after all.

But just in case you start to think this sounds like the premise to a Christmas romcom, the creepy stuff starts almost right away. First, Harry is bamboozled into attending the Holbeck’s Thanksgiving dinner, where she is then ambushed into a private meeting with Robert, Edward’s father. During this meeting, he secretly slips her a cassette tape, telling her it’s his idea for a book, and since she’s such a successful author, couldn’t she just give it a listen and offer some feedback? Completely awed by the family patriarch and seriously crushing on him (ugh, can you get more tacky, Harry?), our protagonist practically trips over herself to do his bidding, and doing a really bad job at being inconspicuous. Then when she finally finds a player old enough to play the tape, she’s shocked to find that instead of Robert reading his story, what comes out is more like a confession.

Robert speaks of women who have disappeared or died, all under mysterious circumstances. But how does he know all the details? Did he have a hand in their fates? Are these women even real, or is Edward’s father just playing a sick game, testing Harry to see if she’s worthy of marrying his eldest son? As Harry becomes further embroiled in her quest for the truth, she must also keep her own deep dark secret hidden. If it is revealed, her chances at love and happiness, and all the glitz that comes with marrying into the Holbeck family, will crumble into nothing.

Goodness, but I do dislike characters who, in one way or another, are the cause of their own misery and misfortune. First off, one can’t turn on a TV, walk through a supermarket aisle, or just go about your normal everyday lives these days without seeing a reminder of when Thanksgiving is. Being British is no excuse; Harry should have known, and would not have been so easily tricked, if she didn’t always have her head so far up her own ass. And you know what? She was told that copying Robert’s tape would be a good idea. Even thought to herself, oh yes, it would be a good idea. Did she end up making a copy of the tape? Of course not. And did I mention that very early on in the book, Harry finds out she is pregnant? Rightfully, she and Edward make a fuss about being careful not to overexert herself or get into any dangerous or stressful situations, but then what does she do but immediately hurls herself headfirst into the Holbeck’s insane holiday traditions like their Krampus Nacht horror show or their traumatizing Christmas games. Harry, you could have just said no for the sake of your unborn child, you idiot. Instead, she’s too busy trying to prove herself good enough for the snooty family and concerned with impressing her fiancé’s hot dad. Man, that sounded so wrong to write.

I’ve enjoyed Catherine Steadman’s books in the past, which was why I was interested in checking out The Family Game, plus the fact that it took place during the holidays made me want to read it over the Christmas break. But wow, what a mess this was. Just so over-the-top and unreal, and not in the good way. That said, I’m no stranger to suspending my disbelief and I can deal with the outlandish. I’m less good at tolerating nitwit protagonists. If it weren’t for the superb performance of the author narrating her own book (she’s an experienced actress, after all), I probably would have rated this lower. And hey, at least Harry’s dopiness gave me a laugh.

17 Comments on “Thursday Thriller Audio: The Family Game by Catherine Steadman”

  1. Fantastic review! Shame you didn’t like this one more.. I had high hopes for it myself but reading about it from your POV felt kind of like watching a train-wreck.. I may have to pass.
    Thanks for sharing!


  2. Who reads books like this and enjoys them? I know tastes differ, but still, the ideas you present should be enough to turn anyone off. AND FOR GOODNESS SAKE, WHO THINKS WRITING THIS IS A GOOD IDEA?

    Sigh, I’m done.


  3. Ouch! Sorry to hear how little you enjoyed this one. It brought back memories of a crazy horror movie, Ready or Not, where a couple getting married have to participate in an old family tradition of playing a game at midnight after the wedding. And things get very dark and insane from then on to the end.


  4. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup 01/01/23: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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