Synopsis: Be careful who you let in.
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.
In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets. (Amazon)
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Rating: 4 stars
I AM PHIN.
While I was reading this book, someone mentioned to me that more so than your typical Thriller, this book read like a family drama. I agree completely. You are not going to get your usual roller-coaster moments; you are not going to get edge-of-your-seat thrills; but you are going to get a fascinating story about a twisted compound of people living together who are, at the core of things, toxic for one another.
The story is told from three perspectives: the lead Libby, the sister of the narrator, Lucy, and the narrator and mysterious third perspective that we later find out to be Henry.
Through Henry we learn what happened years ago at the house where he and Lucy grew up. We learn how police came across a murder scene that read like a cult, why it happened, and what the beginnings of it all were. Through Lucy we read the story of a woman who has had rather ill luck in life, who struggles to keep her family together, and who fights to return to her childhood home to meet the baby that was abandoned when the murders occurred. And Libby is that abandoned baby, someone who has grown up thinking she knows what happened but has no real idea of the details that brought her into existence.
The Family Upstairs begins at a slow but thorough pace and spreads out the mystery for you, slowly knitting the pieces together. I've read another one of Lisa Jewell's books in the past, Watching You, and she did a much better job here of engaging the reader. Even when no action is taking place, you are so enthralled and eager to know what comes next that you can't help but continue reading.
There are some expected twists and turns, some horrible revelations, most of them delivered or executed by Henry. And they are delivered beautifully. The reader is purposefully misled on more than one occasion, and the payoff—finding out the truth—makes you have that AHA! moment we love so much when it comes to books like these.
Henry himself is a conundrum of a character. Libby puts it so well at the end of the story, when she states that she doesn't quite know how to feel about him. He presents a specific picture to everyone of such a charismatic person, who maybe tries a little too hard to be liked, but you forgive that because he's trying and so you want to try as well. But inside he's twisted and weird, creepy even. He delivers the end of the novel in such a chilling way, making us only imagine how he's going to bring his comeuppance to the character that throughout this story drives his ultimate obsession: Phin.
Phin is his drive while everything is falling apart at home when he's a teenage boy, Phin takes up every waking thought once they escape the house after the deaths, and Phin is his ultimate goal. And after everything is said and done, at the bottom of it, The Family Upstairs subtly tells the story of the psychopathic character of Henry Lamb, and that's the beauty of this novel: you don't realize how fooled you've been until the last page, and by then it's too late.