The Villa by Rachel Hawkins is a well crafted thriller

Let me just start by saying this book was everything and more than I was expecting. I really enjoyed the last book I read by Rachel Hawkins, and the spooky vibes the synopsis for this one gave off were enough to convince me I HAD to read this one. Part of me was nervous however, because spooky murder mystery type stories with alternating timelines can go so wrong. But I am nothing if not a sucker for alternate timelines. And this one was done so well and was so enthralling.

The main timeline follows Emily, who has had a recent rough go of things in most aspects of her life. Her husband has left her. She’s been suffering from a mysterious illness for a long stretch of time and still has no answers. Her writing is in a slump and as a result she’s out of money. So when her best friend, Chess, invites her to stay in Italy for the summer, it doesn’t take much to convince her.

What she didn’t know before agreeing was that the villa they’re staying at was the setting of a mysterious murder that never seemed to have all the details come forward. However, rather than deter her, it actually ends up intriguing Emily once she gets there and starts digging more into it.

Enter the other timeline. This one follows Mari and the individuals she spends weeks with at this same manor in the past. It this side of the story details the lead up to the murder, setting up events and eventually showing what really happened when the murder occurs.

As Emily tries to figure out what really happened, there are a number of weird things going on in the villa and her life at the same time. She feels like something is up with Chess. She’s finally writing again about this murder, finally feeling that inspiration she’s been missing from her cozy mystery series Petal for so long now. But she feels like she has to hide this book from Chess. Her ex is hounding her for money, wanting her to write more Petal books. As she digs more into the mystery surrounding the murder that occurred in the villa, she doesn’t know if there’s actually strange things afoot, or if the paranoia of digging into the true story is getting to her.

I really, really enjoyed this book. There was so much tension revealing things bit by bit in both timelines. Despite everything seeming so ordinary, as there isn’t a paranormal tone to it, it kept me engaged from start to finish. I legitimately could not put this book down. When I had to for every day obligations I just wanted to go back to it.

The characters were actually really interesting all around too. They were all so different, and yet there were parallels between the two different stories going on alongside each other throughout this book. Emily was relatable in the sense of someone really down on her luck but finding a reason to be passionate again. Chess genuinely made me furious at times with her actions and attitude. Even Mari with her unique situation and the musicians and Lara had their unique quirks and engaging characteristics.

Not to mention the story itself was great. There were little details that came out as the story progressed they really kept the interest and left the reader wanting more at the same time. And the parallels between Emily’s story and Mari’s only add to all of that, rather than being redundant in any way.

And that news article near the end. While it does lead up to it, when I started this book I never would have expected the final outcome of it. Not to mention everything being twisted on its head right at the end just when you think you know what happened. I cannot wait for more books from this author. The more I read the better her books get because I loved this one even more than the last.

The Villa comes out on January 3rd, 2023. You can preorder it on Amazon.

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