The Villa - Review
*I received an E-Arc from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley. All views are my own*
A few months back, I got access to some early St. Martin's Press titles for their influencer program. In all of the excitement, I came across The Villa by Rachel Hawkins. The synopsis boasted of epic accomplishments, mystery, thriller, and murder with a hint of sinister. Obviously, it piqued my interest. I hear the word "sinister," and I think I will get grand theatrics of unspeakable acts of horror. Boy, was I misled! The Villa wasn't something I saw opening up my 2023, but we're here now, and I have to talk about it.
"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."
This story is another case of a literary recap duping the masses. Even though it hits the points of what the synopsis dished out, reading the story was an entirely different feel. I thought I was getting a better version of that atrocious story I read two years ago, Nothing But Blackened Teeth, or the vibe of it. It's that damn word "sinister" that tricked me.
The Villa is about a recently separated divorcee woman looking to reignite her writing career with her best friend in Italy. While trying to get her groove back, she stumbles on a classic horror story that she realizes took place in the house they're staying at. Within finding this remarkable discovery, she also uncovers secrets from her best friend that may make or break their 30-year friendship.
I wasn't in love with the book. It was a long slow burn. I almost DNFed it, but a tiny thread dealing with the present POV made me stick around. It started getting better 70% in. I didn't care for the past POV; I know it threads the story together for the present, but it wasn't working for me. The previous tenants lived the Rock n Roll life and died by it. The present story ... all I have to say is everybody needs a therapist. There was a lot of audacity, but the main character agreeing to the bullshit was the shocker of it all. My hands flew in the air several times toward the end of the book.
Overall I rated this book 3-stars. It was, eh—nothing to run to the hills for. Everyone got what they deserved, and there shouldn't be a stanza describing anything else. We might have bumped it to half a star if it wasn't for the last chapter. The story could have ended with the thriller aspect, but why stop at something that makes sense?
The Villa is available now.