The Villa by Rachel Hawkins #BookReview #PsychologicalThriller #5starread

The bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs returns with a brilliant new gothic suspense set at an Italian villa with a dark history.

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.

The Story:

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins is a psychological thriller that threads two timelines together to create a spooky mind-bender that kept me glued to the page. Childhood friends, Emily and Chess, decide to take a trip to a villa in Italy. In this villa, a tragic death occurred in 1974, resulting in one of the most excellent horror novels ever written and a platinum album. Both friends are writers, and Emily finds the perfect inspiration for a new story by uncovering the 1974 events that led to Pierce’s murder. But once the secrets of the past start coming out, so do secrets from the present, and it all may lead to yet another murder before the story is done.

Reading Experience:

One of the inspirations for this story was Mary and Percy Shelley’s stay at a Lake Geneva castle with Lord Byron. It was where Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein. This inspiration and influence can be felt so clearly throughout the story. I loved that tense darkness that cast its net and held the whole story together. On the surface, the story within an unrelated story seems almost impossible to keep clear. Still, that feeling that binds both stories together also facilitates the clarity I marveled at.

The aspect I loved the most (and that was the reason for five clear stars) is how well this story is crafted. I don’t think there are even words that can adequately describe what a marvel the technical aspects of the story are. I love how all the plot threads came together and created an utterly superb ending in every way.

The theme of friendship is a bit twisted, as you might expect in a psychological thriller. Still, it, too, comes to a satisfying, albeit unexpected, conclusion. Some twists I could see coming, but others – well, you could have knocked me over with a feather once I read them.

Also, both friends are writers, and I do love a book about books!


Emily is the main character and 1st person narrator of this story. Her marriage has recently dissolved, the most recent book in her series is past due, and she is looking forward to reconnecting with her friend Chess. She is an easy narrator to follow, being calm and sensible, and she never keeps the reader trapped in her thoughts.

Chess, on the other hand, feels like Emily’s polar opposite. She never tells any part of the story, and I am glad about that. She tends to be controlling and lacks self-confidence while projecting overconfidence in any given situation. She is not a very likable character, but she and Emily have a bond that spans most of their lives.

Narration & Pacing:

The narration is first person and focuses solely on Emily’s POV. This worked very well as she is excellent at creating that darkness and suspense/tension that is very important to the story. It also kept the pace delightfully fast for me, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the page and finished the book in one sitting.


The setting is perfect. Absolutely. Positively. Perfect. It holds secrets past and present, is relatively secluded, and is the right mix of luxury and danger. I can’t imagine a better setting.

Read if you like:

  • Dark and twisted thrillers
  • Twisted friendships
  • Books featuring writers as main characters

Overall Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writing Quality10
Character Development8
‘Couldn’t Put It Down’-ness10
Use of Setting10
All scores, except the overall rating, are on a scale of 1-10. The overall rating is converted to the standard 5-point system.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free advanced copy of this book to read and review.

33 Replies to “The Villa by Rachel Hawkins #BookReview #PsychologicalThriller #5starread”

  1. Well, this sounds like a great book to have kicked the year off with! I hope you have many more books this year that you enjoy as much as this one. I love the cover too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is how you know a thriller has done its job, lots of clues, which lead nowhere, and some we miss because of that. Great review, as always, and another book I need to put on my list.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Based on the cover, I’d never suspect a story like this inside. But this is one I’d love to read. I never knew that fact about Mary Shelley.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did actually know that about Mary Shelley and Frankenstein and yes, the cover is so pretty – it does not say creepy atmospheric read at all. But it is!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice review, Tessa. My review will be up tomorrow for The Villa. I did enjoy it, but for me, it dragged a bit in places. But, that ending was incredible!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It truly was! That’s weird it didn’t drag for me, of all people, but I think sometimes the atmospheric reads can pull me along with just that creepy feeling.


    1. It just struck the right chords with me. I felt like she pulled off the Mary Shelley vibes so well that the atmosphere just stole me away.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. WOW! You sold me! Based on the blurb alone, I was hooked, then I read your amazing review. This is definitely going toward the top of my read list. I just bought it from Amazon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You will love the ending! And I hope you get caught up in the creepy Mary Shelley type atmosphere like I did. It really just takes it to another level.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved the detailed review of the book. I have the ebook on my TBR list. I’ve been meaning to get to this book. Liked how you took the book apart into review sections.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve been meaning to get to this book. Liked how you took the book apart into review sections.


  8. I devoured this book in one day it was so good. I’m sad that “lilth rising” isn’t a real book I want to read it too. There was so much mystery and deception in this I just couldn’t put it down. I need a second book where Em gets Chess back just like she did Matt.


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