A house with the darkest of secrets.
Random House UK Cornerstone|8 August 2019|464 pages|e-book |Review copy|5*
In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.
In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.
They’ve been dead for several days.
Who has been looking after the baby?
And where did they go?
Just like the other books by Lisa Jewell that I’ve read The Family Upstairs is totally absorbing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s full of suspense and drama and is very dark indeed.
It’s a complex novel told alternately from three of the characters’ perspectives, Henry, Lucy and Libby, spanning over 25 years, telling the story of two families, who together combined make one completely dysfunctional family, living in 16 Cheyne Walk, London. The house is dark, mysterious and steeped in a malevolent atmosphere, with panelled walls, locked rooms, a secret staircase and a full-size cannon in the front garden. And within its walls the family lived in fear, locked away from the outside world, dominated by a megalomaniac.
At first little is clear, the reader is left to work out the characters’ relationships and wonder about why the baby is found, healthy and well cared for in a cot upstairs, whilst the rest of the house is empty apart from three dead and decomposing bodies lying on the floor below. Next to the bodies a note indicates they committed suicide and asking that the baby, Serenity, who was ten months old would go to ‘nice people’. There were signs that other people had occupied the house, wardrobe doors were flung open, food was found in the fridge, books left lying open on the floor and crockery left in the cupboards. But who they were and why they left was a mystery.
And so the whole story gradually unfolds with many twists and turns as layers of secrets and lies are revealed. It’s complicated but very readable, and completely compelling. And it ends on a seemingly innocent question that I found distinctly chilling.
Many thanks to Random House UK Cornerstone for an e-book review copy via NetGalley