Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Lisa Jewell is the queen of writing thrillers with multiple story lines that come together in an expected way. The Family Upstairs is no different. This book successfully combines three entangled story lines that converge half way through in a way that answers all the reader's questions, but still leaves something for the imagination at the end. Centered around an old English mansion and three families' stories that revolve around it's walls.
The Family Upstairs revolves around the story of an old, abandoned mansion, worth several million, that Libby Jones unexpectedly inherits on her 25th birthday. Libby was adopted and does not know much about her birth parents, other than the fact that 25 years prior, her birth family lived in this mansion and were found dead, with baby Libby left upstairs, crying in her crib. When Libby inherits their family mansion, she is hoping to finally learn who she is and the family she came from.
The Family Upstairs follows Libby's identity search, using the mansion she inherited, her close friend, and a reporter who was involved in the story of her parents death. Twenty five years prior, when police were dispatched to the mansion on account of a crying baby, they found three bodies, dead on the kitchen floor, all dressed in black cloaks. The scene looked cultish and though two of the bodies were identified as Libby's parents, the other was an unidentified male. While Libby uncovers her family history, miles away, Lucy is in France, with her son, young daughter, and pet dog, struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. Lucy uses her fiddle to play on street corners for cash from strangers. She has a dark past with an wealthy, but abusive ex husband and is working to get back to England. She wakes up one morning to a notification on her phone, "the baby is twenty five."
The third storyline is Henry and his family, who lived in the mansion (presumably Libby's brother and parents.) Henry describes a bizarre woman who asks to use the mansion for a music video shoot, but then never leaves. She brings her boyfriend over and eventually a bizarre family, whose patriarch is a charismatic man who seems on par with Jim Jones. These people come to visit, but end up staying and living with Henry and his easily influenced mother and father. Henry describes the bizarre things that take place inside the walls of the mansion and his story eventually intertwines with Libby and Lucy's.
Lisa Jewell is amazing on creating rich characters with gothic undertones. Each story line was suspenseful and kept me wanting more. The stories begin to converge in the middle of the novel, but as is typical Jewell style, she keeps you guessing until the very end. Jewell has a way of diving into the human psyche and creating characters that push the envelope. It is hard to get invested in one of her characters, because I find that most of them are hiding a deep, dark secret that does not come out until the end. The Family Upstairs is eerie and haunting, with cult references, a spooky mansion, and bizarre family situations. I am a sucker for anything with a cult type storyline, so that instantly drew me in. I wanted to learn more about Libby and where she came from and also figure out what was going on with Lucy and her family. Jewell did an amazing job crafting each story, which were told in different timelines and from different perspectives. The ending brought closure to the stories, but not complete closure. As is typical with Jewell's writing, there is something left unsaid at the end that keeps you wanting more. I felt like I finished The Family Upstairs and then needed to discuss it immediately. I had so many unanswered questions! But that is a sign of a great novel, they leave you wanting more.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell is probably my favorite Jewell book to date, with Then She Was Gone in a close second. I gave this thriller ★★★★.5 stars and highly recommend it if you are a fan of dark and brooding thrillers. Jewell is a thriller genius! The Family Upstairs is set for publication on Tuesday, November 5th.