The Villa by Rachel Hawkins
by Rachel Hawkins
Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Gothic, Historical Fiction
From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set at an Italian villa with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.
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.
Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the infamous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at a Lake Geneva castle––the birthplace of Frankenstein––The Villa welcomes you into its deadly legacy.
I am a big fan of Rachel Hawkins' work as Erin Sterling and her Ex Hex series - naturally I wanted to read this one as well. With it's spooky, Halloween vibes and its setting of a villa in Italy with a dark past made it sound like it was going to be the ultimate thriller/mystery. Sadly, I was majorly let down with this one. Ultimately, this ended up being a 2.5-star read rounded up for me.
We got introduced to Emily and Mari as the MCs and the narrators of their stories. Emily is the current MC and Mari is the MC from the villa's past dark history. I honestly liked Mari's story better and could have read an entire book from her POV. Emily was whiney to me and I felt as if she was a boring MC. I was intrigued by how her story was going to play out but in the end, I was highly disappointed.
This book didn't read like a thriller or a mystery to me. It was more of a women's fiction novel that had a historical fiction aspect to it. Nothing intriguing started happening until about the 70% point of the book. The ending itself seemed rushed and I had more questions than answers. I probably wouldn't recommend this to anyone as it falls to the bottom of all my Hawkins/Sterling books. If you like drama mixed with some suspense, give it a go I guess.
SPOILERS BELOW DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ YET!!!!!
The main problem I had with this book was its predictability. Clearly, the past came back and replayed into the current story. I guessed this was going to happen and that someone was going to die. Am I mad it was her cheating husband who was trying to steal her money? No. I liked that aspect. But it was sooooo predictable.
Another issue I had was with Emily just going along with Chess after she literally found out she slept with her husband? WTF? Like there is no way I would go along and write a book and share profits with the woman who literally slept with my husband behind his back. This also was predictable to me with how much they mentioned Chess being close to Emily's husband.
Then there were the letters that Emily found that Mari left around. Verity was already written, we don't need a reprise of it with the letters being confusing and not knowing what really happened. At least that's the impression I got - but I could have missed the exclamation of what really happened because by the time I got to the end I was skimming and just wanted it to be over.
Overall, this turned out to be a boring narrative of women's fiction that could have gone in a million different directions and I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Will I read more Hawkins/Sterling books? Absolutely. But this one just missed the mark.
Big thanks to NetGalley, Rachel Hawkins and St. Martin's Press for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest options!