The Villa by Rachel Hawkins is the latest thriller from the author. Emily and Chess are the definitions of toxic friends, and one trip to Italy could spell their downfall.
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.
As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend.
Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday home now, but in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato, and rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. In an attempt to reignite his creative spark, Noel invites up-and-coming musician, Pierce Sheldon to join him, as well as Pierce’s girlfriend, Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. But he also sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Mari writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, Lara composing a platinum album––and ends in Pierce’s brutal murder.
As Emily digs into the villa’s complicated history, she begins to think there might be more to the story of that fateful summer in 1974. That perhaps Pierce’s murder wasn’t just a tale of sex, drugs, and rock & roll gone wrong, but that something more sinister might have occurred––and that there might be clues hidden in the now-iconic works that Mari and Lara left behind.
Yet the closer that Emily gets to the truth, the more tension she feels developing between her and Chess. As secrets from the past come to light, equally dangerous betrayals from the present also emerge––and it begins to look like the villa will claim another victim before the summer ends.
Characters: 5 | Atmosphere: 8 | Writing: 8 | Plot: 5 | Intrigue: 7 | Logic: 6 | Enjoyment: 7
Total: 6.57 / 3 stars
“Houses Remember “
The concept of this book was really fantastic, and the way it was executed equally so. Yet, Rachel Hawkins has released another book where the ending left me feeling frustrated. Of course, I won’t spoil it for any of you, but it made the entire book feel unnecessary and flat. How one manages to do this in a singular chapter is interesting, but, this is the third book from Hawkins that has left me feeling this way. I enjoyed the story greatly up until that final chapter, and I almost wish I had skipped it.
“Later, she’ll look back at this moment and wonder why there was no warning, no sense of the horrors that would unfold in that house.”
The characters are well written, and very complex. The way the two stories entwine themselves, and are fully fleshed out, takes a lot of skill. This book made me wish I could get my hands on the imaginary Lilith Rising and take a read of it myself. Emily’s choices were aligned with what I would expect of the character, and the mystery of Mari had me staying up late to try and understand what was happening. As these two stories became darker more quickly, I found myself more drawn in, unable to put the book down.
“But on that bright June afternoon in 1974, Mari just basks in the promise that here, in this beautiful place, things might finally be different.”
And yet, when looked at critically, the book had a few too many red herrings. The relationship between Chess and Emily was toxic to degrees worth addressing, and it was swept under the rug. The entire book could have been more daring, dark, or interesting. The route and the plot were laid out for this, and somehow, Hawkins still opted not to do so.
“But we three are tied together/a golden chain unbroken/ and I think it’s strangling me.”
Overall, this book was a fun read, but a disappointing end. I’m not sure if one makes up for the other.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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