City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita #BookReview #Thriller #CityUnderOneRoof

A stranded detective tries to solve a murder in a tiny Alaskan town where everyone winters in the same high-rise building, in this gripping debut by Academy Award–nominated screenwriter Iris Yamashita.

When a local teenager discovers a severed hand and foot washed up on the shore of the small town of Point Mettier, Alaska, Cara Kennedy is on the case. A detective from Anchorage, she has her own reasons for investigating the possible murder in this isolated place, which can be accessed only by a tunnel.

After an avalanche causes the tunnel to close indefinitely, Cara is stuck among the odd and suspicious residents of the town—all 205 of whom live in the same high-rise building and are as icy as the weather. Cara teams up with Point Mettier police officer Joe Barkowski, but before long the investigation is upended by a gang from a nearby reservation who are seeking shelter from the snowstorm.

Cara soon discovers that everyone in this town is keeping secrets. If there is anything as elusive as the residents themselves, it’s answers.

Iris Yamashita is an Academy Award–nominated screenwriter for the movie Letters from Iwo Jima. She has been working in Hollywood for fifteen years developing material for both film and streaming, has taught screenwriting at UCLA, and is an advocate of women and diversity in the entertainment industry. She has also been a judge and mentor for various film and writing programs, and lives in California.

What’s it about (in a nutshell):

City Under One Roof is a claustrophobically atmospheric thriller about a small town in Alaska, the secrets that it hides, and one stranded detective who wants desperately to solve the mystery that haunts her.

Actual Reading Experience:

I loved how smartly this story is told, from the choice of narrators to even the most minor details about the town and its inhabitants.  The mystery is absolutely clever, with loads of red herrings that confounded me to the very end.  And the overwhelming claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in the small town is just the cherry on top of an already delicious tale.

The only aspect that gives me pause is how the pace slows way down, partly because of that overwhelming atmosphere.  I felt like I was slogging through the snow during the midsection before the pace picked up dramatically.

I also love seeing a different side of Alaska.  All I really know about it are the beautiful vistas, and I never thought about other options for how people live in such a hostile environment.  It is a fascinating and compelling perspective that will stay with me.


Cara Kennedy is the main character.  She is a detective from Anchorage who, when she hears about the events in Point Mettier, feels compelled to investigate for her own personal reasons.  Reasons that are slowly revealed as the story progresses.

Amy is a teenager holding on to too many secrets for one so young, and Lonnie wants nothing more than to protect those around her, even the moose she named Denny.

Narration & Pacing:

The story is told in the first person through multiple perspectives.  The main character tells an outsider’s view of the town and the mystery, while Amy, the teen who found the washed-up body parts, and Lonnie tell the story from an insider’s perspective.  All points of view are needed for the reader to fully appreciate the setting and all that it brings to the story, from the supernatural to the very practical.


The fictional small town of Port Mettier, Alaska – is the home of a long-abandoned military base consisting of one building that houses everything and a series of tunnels to take residents to the few things it doesn’t hold.  It’s a place people only move to when they don’t want to be found.  Ghosts roam the halls, and secrets are hidden behind closed doors. It’s not a place you would want to be when a snowstorm hits because there is no way out until the snow melts.

Read if you like:

  • Claustrophobic, atmospheric thrillers
  • Unique setting with diverse characters
  • Thought-provoking and clever writing

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Writing Quality10
Character Development8
‘Couldn’t Put It Down’-ness10
Use of Setting10
All scores, except the overall rating, are on a scale of 1-10. The overall rating is converted to the standard 5-point system.

Thank you to Berkley publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book for review.

15 Replies to “City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita #BookReview #Thriller #CityUnderOneRoof”

  1. The setting is a huge draw for me. I love claustrophobic, atmospheric thrillers and books set during winter. You’re giving me another for my TBR, Tessa.
    Excellent review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love Alaska as a setting, and that’s crazy all the residents live in the same high rise. I can’t imagine! Sorry about the pacing, but it sounds like everything else made for a thrilling read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the atmosphere made up for it even though it also caused it (I believe) – that’s irony for you, isn’t it? But that atmosphere was almost The Shining like but not quite to that extreme.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I do too. Now, I’m very curious about the practical stuff like how people live, what they eat, what they do for fun, etc…


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