Genre: Mystery & Thriller
Length: 288 pages
Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 30 minutes
First Published: 2023
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I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Although they were inseparable growing up, Emily and Chess have begun to grow apart in their 30s. Now Chess is a bestselling self-help author and influencer while Emily is going through a nasty divorce. They hope to reconnect on a girls’ trip to a gorgeous Italian villa that was the setting of a celebrity murder and the inspiration for a bestselling horror novel and a platinum album. The further Emily tries to solve the long-ago murder, the more Chess becomes uncomfortable and their hidden secrets come spilling out.
Though the luxurious Italian setting was utterly perfect, The Villa didn’t have the same unputdownable factor that made Reckless Girls a bestseller last year. The beginning is slow, going light on suspense and heavy on drama. Although I enjoyed the past timeline, the unlikeable characters made this an easy-to-read, yet forgettable mystery.
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.
About Rachel Hawkins
Rachel Hawkins is a former English teacher and the author of the novels Rebel Belle, The Wife Upstairs, The Villa, Reckless Girls, and the Hex Hall series. She was born in Virginia and raised in Alabama.