Review: The Family Game by Catherine Steadman

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A rich, eccentric family. A time-honored tradition. Or a lethal game of survival? One woman finds out what it really takes to join the 1% in this riveting psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Something in the Water, Mr. Nobody, and The Disappearing Act.

Harry is a novelist on the brink of stardom; Edward, her husband-to-be, is seemingly perfect. In love and freshly engaged, their bliss is interrupted by the reemergence of the Holbecks, Edward’s eminent family and the embodiment of American old money. For years, they’ve dominated headlines and pulled society’s strings, and Edward left them all behind to forge his own path. But there are eyes and ears everywhere. It was only a matter of time before they were pulled back in . . .

After all, even though he’s long severed ties with his family, Edward is set to inherit it all. Harriet is drawn to the glamour and sophistication of the Holbecks, who seem to welcome her with open arms, but everything changes when she meets Robert, the inescapably magnetic head of the family. At their first meeting, Robert slips Harry a cassette tape, revealing a shocking confession which sets the inevitable game in motion.

What is it about Harry that made him give her that tape? A thing that has the power to destroy everything? As she ramps up her quest for the truth, she must endure the Holbecks’ savage Christmas traditions all the while knowing that losing this game could be deadly.


The Family Game starts with Harriet Reed, a novelist on the brink of stardom, getting engaged to marry Edward Holbeck. Ed comes from old American money, ruthless American money. He has estranged himself from his father, mother, and siblings, but when they learn about Harry and their engagement, they start to use her to get him back into the fold. What Harry finds when she meets the Holbecks is a family that holds a great deal of power, money, and influence. She also learns that is a very dangerous undercurrent to everything that they do.

Many things work really well in this novel. Harry is from England, and the Holbecks use some of her cultural ignorance against her, like inviting her and Edward over for a dinner without telling her that it is Thanksgiving. These kinds of little tricks that the Holbecks pull really set up the book for bigger tricks, and we can believe that Harry is a little behind in her understanding while trying to navigate this family. This also makes Harry a strong character, one that shows her adaptability and has a very good chance of beating them at their own games. Another thing that works really well in the novel is the way that the structure of the Holbeck family is presented. We feels from Harry’s very first meeting with any of them that there is an undercurrent to their knowledge, like they have already vetted the situation and that they can get away with whatever they want because they have money and power. The father and patriarch of the Holbecks, Robert, is the biggest example of this. He is to be feared. The way that he conducts himself makes him frightening. At one point, an entire family dinner is canceled specifically because he is in a mood and will not join them. The power that he has not only as the head of his family but as a wealthy white guy in America that can escape whatever problem that arises, is on full display. He knows that he has enough money and influence to cover up any sort of unlawful action. This puts Harry in danger, and we feel the tension Harry feels. We sense the danger that she is in, even before she senses it herself. 

I like that this book is set between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that this is not only a thriller but it is a holiday book as well. Harry spends the holiday season with the Holbecks, and it is definitely one that she will never forget. Even though I was able to predict the ending about half way through the book, I enjoyed The Family Game, and it is a great deal of fun to read. The story moves quickly, and in the end, it is a novel that I can recommend to anyone who likes stories about rich families and the secrets they have kept simply because they have money.

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