Review: The Villa by Rachel Hawkins


Release date: January 3, 2023

Publisher: St. Martins

Genre: Mystery/Thriller


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.

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.


This was such an addictive and fun popcorn thriller! I know it’s early for me to be reviewing it but it was entertaining enough that I figured getting it on your radar early would be a good thing. One of the things I’ve come to enjoy the most about this authors books is the way she creates unsettling settings for her books and this was no exception. It flips back and forth between present day when Emily and Chess are vacationing in Italy and then back to the 1970s when Mari spends a summer at the same villa as Emily. I was very drawn to the past timeline because you already know the summer comes to a violent and deadly end but the lead up to the tragedy was so fascinating. The author did a really great job with these two timelines showcasing such similar and parallel experiences but it was still easy to keep things separate in my head. I think I expected a slightly more explosive ending after such a strong lead up but I appreciate what the author was doing and why she made the choices she did. Overall a solid read with a unique edge and very cool throwback vibes.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

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