Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.
She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.
Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.
It’s rare but here’s finally another audiobook that I loved. The fact that I immediately continued with the sequel says it all. I wasn’t a fan of this author (I rated my first read of hers in 2009 with only 2 stars) but I gave it a second try and made a complete turnaround now. The Family Upstairs was very engaging, tragic and full of madness.
Book 1 is about David Thompsen who moves in with his children (Clemency and Finn(eas)) and a woman called Birdy in tow with the Lamb family. David starts to take over the whole house and everybody needs to comply to his rules. His influence on the others grows organically but as the novel progresses his dictatorship spirals horribly out of control. The adults seem to be under his spell but young Henry Lamb is very observant and starts to ask questions about their situation. How can a young boy take on such a controlling leader though when he finds himself all alone in this? In another thread in the present 25 year old Libby Jones inherits the house where she was found as a baby. All the other children who lived there disappeared and the adults were found dead.
The two plotlines went along great together and I loved how the author worked her way towards revealing Libby’s family history and the family’s deadly end. This novel started out as one thing but then suddenly had cult-like vibes and I was captivated by it all. I felt sorry for Henry but at the same time the author attributed a sort of creepiness as well to him, what with his obsession over Finn. Was it a young man’s exploration of his own identity or was there more to it? It was strangely addictive trying to reach a conclusion. I can’t think of any negative to say about this very atmospheric novel that had no trouble at all drawing me in.
The narration was great as well and if you’re new to audiobooks this is certainly one I’d recommend.
Early one morning on the shore of the Thames, DCI Samuel Owusu is called to the scene of a gruesome discovery. When Owusu sends the evidence for examination, he learns the bones are connected to a cold case that left three people dead on the kitchen floor in a Chelsea mansion thirty years ago.
Rachel Rimmer has also received a shock—news that her husband, Michael, has been found dead in the cellar of his house in France. All signs point to an intruder, and the French police need her to come urgently to answer questions about Michael and his past that she very much doesn’t want to answer.
After fleeing London thirty years ago in the wake of a horrific tragedy, Lucy Lamb is finally coming home. While she settles in with her children and is just about to purchase their first-ever house, her brother takes off to find the boy from their shared past whose memory haunts their present.
As they all race to discover answers to these convoluted mysteries, they will come to find that they’re connected in ways they could have never imagined.
In the sequel to The Family Upstaires there are three plotlines to follow. There’s the continuation of Libby’s new family life with the search for her father, there’s a police investigation into a murder (or two) and there’s the story of Rachel and Michael (he happens to be Lucy’s ex-husband).
I enjoyed all three plotlines but one of them stood out for me as I noticed I was always looking forward to returning to Rachel’s story more than the others. It might be because it was again the most emotional of them so that it had the biggest impact on me. This storyline provides similarities to the one in her first novel, which is probably why she wanted to play with this format again. Another situation but again where there’s a domineering man involved, and where you simply don’t see what’s coming at first. If you haven’t learned a lesson to be cautious in life with who you meet and pick up on certain signals and then act on them immediately, then I don’t know what will. In this instance Rachel meets Michael and what follows is a whirlwind romance. When it’s too good to be true, it usually is. Michael seems to want it all to go his way and when Rachel doesn’t follow him in his ways, he acts up. It was easy to root and care for Rachel and I hoped she would come out of this unscathed.
The search for Libby’s father was a bit slow and what I’d feared for after all the build up (Henry trying to hide his whereabouts with all of his means from his family in order to find him on his own) didn’t happen at all. So the twist felt a little anticlimatic, hence the four stars instead of five.
Overall this book gave me the closure that I needed after that first novel’s rather open ending. It is necessary to read these books in order so that you understand this family before you start the second book.
In both books the characters were really well developed and I felt an emotional attachment so really well done, I absolutely enjoyed listening to these two fabulously narrated audiobooks!