The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

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. (from

My Thoughts

Rachel Hawkins is becoming one of my favorite authors. My first book I read of hers was The Wife Upstairs which I listened to through my Libby app and then I picked Reckless Girls as one of my Book of the Month choices for last year. Her stories just keep popping up to me and I keep enjoying them, so I couldn't wait to get started on The Villa.

This is a hard book to review without spoiling so I'm going to just share some miscellaneous thoughts. It's a fun story that is told through two points of view. Our first character is Mari. It's the Summer of 1973 and she's come to stay at Villa Rosado with her partner, her stepsister, and two friends. The house is full of tension because it seems like barely any of the characters like each other. As we learn more about Mari and her group we learn two things:
  1. Some of the members of the group are going to use their time responsibly, to work on their art, music, and writing.
  2. Not everyone is going to survive the Summer.
Fun, huh? And in present day we are introduced to Emily and Chess, two best friends who are staying at the very same villa in Orvieto. They know about the horrendous events that went down at the villa but they don't think much about it. They have their own concerns to worry about. Both of them are writers and they each have a book on deadline.

I loved all the drama and mystery in this story. Because it's told through two different perspectives, the real horror of the villa unravels little by little. As a reader, I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. There were certain parts that just didn't strike me as realistic at all, but the characters were so interesting and their actions at times were definitely not what I expected. I'm really loving the way Rachel Hawkins writes mysteries and I was definitely expecting a twist after what happened in Reckless Girls, and The Villa did not disappoint.

On goodreads, this is how they recommend the book:
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.

Pretty spooky, huh? I highly recommend this book if you like mysteries. Rachel puts a lot of care into creating interesting characters (I just LOVED that Emily was a cozy mystery author) and creatiing interesting settings (So much talk of wine and cheese is good for my soul, tbh). 

Thank you to Netgalley and St Martin's Press for an eArc in exchange for my honest thoughts.

xo Marian