In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.
In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note.
They’ve been dead for several days.
Who has been looking after the baby? And where did they go?
Two entangled families. A house with the darkest of secrets.
I’ve only read one book by Lisa Jewell and I wasn’t terribly impressed with it. I didn’t plan on reading her other books but I’ll admit this one piqued my curiosity and when I saw it in the library on holiday I immediately checked it out. I’m glad I did because it was very much a hair-raising story, one took on an incredibly dark turn and I quickly became engrossed in the story. It’s the perfect horror story and one that I’d definitely recommend.
Soon after Libby Jones turns twenty-five, she receives a letter informing her that she has inherited a house (or rather a mansion) in Chelsea, worth millions. However, stripped of once well-loved possessions and in a state of disrepair, the house has a very sinister past that Libby is determined to uncover.
The story flips between the past and the present. The present chapters are told from the points of view of Libby and Lucy, while the chapters set in the past are told from the point of view of Henry. Lucy and Henry were the children of the previous owners of the house and Henry tells the story of how his once happy family fell under the spell of, and became entangled with, the charismatic David who soon reveals that he’s not as charming as he first appears. I definitely preferred Henry’s chapters because they were much, much darker than Libby and Lucy’s, and it was terrifying reading the family’s slow descent into madness. It was like a before and after picture gone wrong and once the cult really got going, it was quite horrifying seeing how this much loved family home became a prison.
I’ve only read one book about a cult before and I definitely didn’t find it as dark and twisted as The Family Upstairs. I loved how the tension levels just ramped up and up and up the deeper you got into the story and how everything spiralled out of control. Lisa did a great job of showing a completely different side to David and it was very chilling how quickly his personality switched from charming to psychotic. There’s also Birdie who is just as cruel and manipulative as David – she’s not someone I’d want to cross paths with.
Unfortunately I found the main characters rather disappointing and much preferred the minor/side characters. I couldn’t connect with Libby at all even though she came across as a relatable character. I felt the same about Lucy as well, I guess we were supposed to feel sorry for the situation Lucy found herself in but she didn’t come across as likeable at all. Lastly, there’s an “investigative journalist” called Miller who apparently ruined his marriage trying to uncovered what really happened in the house all those years ago. Now, if he was an investigative journalist he was a very poor one. He did little in this book and seemed to be wary of everything. He only did something because Libby jumped at it and he wanted to protect her. I thought the whole point of being an investigative journalist was to, you know, investigate stuff and not hold back? I think he was my least favourite just because I expected more of him and he kept disappointing me.
Despite being disappointed with some of the characters, The Family Upstairs is not to be missed and I’d definitely recommend it for horror fans.