REVIEW: THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS, BY LISA JEWELL

 

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom.

Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

 

My Thoughts: Our multiple narrators capture us from the beginning of The Family Upstairs. From Libby Jones, presumably the baby found in the Cheyne Walk house, to Henry, the son who went missing, there are a few others whose bits and pieces of the story unfold. It takes a while to figure out who Lucy is, and what she might have to do with Libby.

The cultish story is creepy with Gothic overtones. Who are these people, and how did one man take over all the adults and children that surrounded him? How did any of them escape, and who ended the lives of the perpetrators?

I loved all the twists and turns, and how nothing was exactly as we expected. By the end, however, all the missing pieces have fallen into place. A brilliant 5 star read.

***

REVIEW: THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY, BY RUTH WARE

 

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

My Thoughts: Hal is the kind of character that I root for, with her orphan status and her plucky efforts to find her way in the world despite her disadvantages. But would it be so wrong to finally have a little money of her own? Even if collecting on this inheritance turns out to feel like a con?

The Death of Mrs. Westaway reeled me in, from the early narrative of someone writing in a diary in 1994 to Hal’s present day search for the truth of her heritage. She has never known the identity of her father, and now she is wondering just what, if anything, connects her to the Westaways, other than their shared surname.

She feels a sense of familiarity about Trepassen House, the somewhat creepy mansion in Cornwall, with magpies hovering overhead and a stern and sinister housekeeper within. Its Gothic like aura frightens her, but also tugs at her curiosity and sense of a deeper connection. The grown sons of Mrs. Hester Westaway are imposing, from Harding, the eldest; to Abel, next in line; and then there is Ezra the youngest. His charm is noticeable from the beginning, but is there something else about him that is part of a deeper secret?

What is the story of Maud, the missing daughter? How did the friendship between cousins Maggie and Maud lead to the biggest secret of their lives? What role did Tarot cards play in their lives, and what did they learn from them?

What events had set in motion the dark plan that would bring Hal to Trepassen hoping for an inheritance, and where a twenty-year secret would be revealed? A 5 star read.

***