Judith D Collins
By: Rachel Hawkins
Narrators: Julia Whelan, Kimberly M. Wetherell, Shiromi Arserio
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 01/03/2023
Format: e-book and audio
My Rating: 4 Stars (ARC)
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.
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Bestselling Author Rachel Hawkins returns following Reckless Girls with her latest, THE VILLA —a Gothic-inspired cozy mystery where the past and present collide when two friends spend a summer in an Italian villa with a tormented and haunting history.
PRESENT: Friends, Emily and Chess (best friends) since childhood, decide to rent an Italian villa for the summer. It is a luxury villa but is also famous for the scene of a murder in the 1970s. Chess recommends it and pays for the trip. She became famous for her self-help books and her IG posts.
Emily and Chess were BFFs until Emily married Matt. Emily writes cozy YA mysteries, and Chess moved to the big city and writes self-help books (non-fiction).
PAST: Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday luxury retreat; however, back in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato. It was rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. 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. There was also Johnnie the dealer and plenty of sex, drugs, and rock n roll.
Things got out of hand. Some died. Someone was sent to prison. A young woman writer finds inspiration for her horror work, a husband, and a famous aristocrat who pulled them there. Also, some ghostly stories.
Emily digs into the complex history and thinks there might have been something more to the story. Did they leave clues of something more sinister? Emily is trying to get away from her husband (lots of drama with her impending divorce) and has an illness that is worse with stress and deadlines.
Chess always wants to write together. The trip was for six weeks so they could finish their novels. But can Emily trust Chess? A betrayal.
Will the villa claim yet another victim in the present?
Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, the usage of podcasts, newspaper clippings, and the atmospheric past/setting added to the intrigue and some surprises, even though I was expecting something more sinister and shocking.
"Atmospheric, an evil, wicked twisty ending, a cozy mystery with a Gothic flair and a house that remembers."
AUDIOBOOK: I loved the front cover and thoroughly enjoyed the e-book and especially the audiobook, which was highly engaging and entertaining with narrators (love Julia Whelan) and the other two, Kimberly M. Wetherell and Shiromi Arserio for a wide range of voices for the characters, both past, and present.
For fans of authors Lucy Foley, Carol Goodman, and Ruth Ware.
Thank you to #StMartinsPress #SMPInfluencers #Netgalley for a gifted ALC and ARC.
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
Pub Date: Jan 3, 2023
My Rating: 4 Stars
"Hawkins casts a sharp eye throughout to the way we construct stories about female artists―and the moral ambiguity inherent in creation and fame. The effect lingers like a shadow, or a creature, that endures past the final words. Hawkins manages to achieve the seemingly impossible: A Frankenstein-inspired novel that feels both fresh and unique."
―Kirkus (starred review)
"Friendship and professional jealousy fuel this nail-biter...Intense characters complement the brisk plot, which shifts smoothly between the present and 1974. Hawkins consistently entertains." ―Publishers Weekly
"This story’s finely honed interplay of creative ambition and haunting sadness makes it a step above. Hawkins pokes at the darker aspects of both true crime and self-help, and it works beautifully. Hawkins' star is definitely on the rise after two bestsellers, and this one will propel her further into the stratosphere."
―Booklist, starred review
"In The Villa, Rachel Hawkins brilliantly stitches together past and present, deftly luring readers into a deliciously dark tale filled with twisted secrets, suspect loyalties, and deadly encounters. I tore through this haunting thrill ride at breakneck speed but hated to see it end. Everything about The Villa is pitch-perfect, again proving that Hawkins is the reigning queen of suspense." ―Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Overnight Guest
"Cleverly-narrated via past and present timelines...The Villa teems with sexual tension, festering tempers, and questionable friendships. Hawkins' latest thriller reminds us that no matter what truths we think we've stumbled upon, writers cannot always be trusted―and certainly not the tales they tell."
―Sarah Penner, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary
"Rachel Hawkins DELIVERS with The Villa. Slick, twisty, and packed full of pop culture references spanning decades, this book is a perfectly delicious read. I devoured it as fast as I could and wanted to read it again immediately. Buy one for yourself and another for your best friend because you’ll want to talk about it for days."
―Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author
About the Author
Photo: © John Hawkins
Rachel Hawkins is the New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs and Reckless Girls, as well as multiple books for young readers. Her work has been translated in over a dozen countries. She studied gender and sexuality in Victorian literature at Auburn University and currently lives in Alabama. READ MORE