The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell

Published By: Penguin
Pages: 480
Released On: 12/12/2019

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?

*****

Okay, who gave Lisa Jewell the right to be such a stunning author?!

I kept seeing recommendations for her books all over social media, and whilst I was intrigued, I never got round to reading them. But then I had some book points to spend so I thought, what better time to dip my toe in. But you can’t just dip your toe in the Lisa Jewell world. You leap head first. I devoured this book in one sitting and already have the sequel sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read. And once I’ve finished that one, I just know I’ll have to order all her previous books.

This didn’t fit in to a single genre for me. It’s a murder mystery, it’s a thriller, it’s psychological and claustrophobic. It’s sort of everything wrapped in one and it’s delightful for it.

It’s full of twists and turns and doesn’t allow you to get comfortable with the characters or the storyline. You’re always second guessing yourself, trying to figure it out at the same time as our protagonists.

I really liked the switching between narrators and time periods. Usually that would confuse me and I often find them unnecessary, but I feel it was vital in this book. Our protagonist Libby doesn’t know her history, so she couldn’t possibly narrate what happened, so we dip into the lives of other families, before it being neatly tied up – or so I thought. Now there’s a sequel out makes me assume there are some things that have been left open, and I’m super excited to unearth these again.

I’ve seen some reviews that negatively talk about the characters, whereas I thought they were the strongest part. This is neither plot heavy or character heavy, it’s both, but I thought the characterisations were fabulous. They’re not brash or over the top, and I think that makes the book even more thrilling, even more claustrophobic, because there’s this quiet terror running through them all and you end up getting sucked into this cruel, twisted world.

I won’t give away the complete plot – even though it’s been out for a few years I don’t want to put big spoilers, because a lot of its joy comes from going in blind – but themes that may seem a bit unbelievable at first glance, have been worked through this very human story so well that you absolutely believe they’re happening.

I’m so glad I finally read this book, in my opinion it thoroughly deserves all the raves it was getting and Lisa Jewell deserves all the praise. I can often find thrillers difficult to follow, but this was clearly set up and I found myself getting completely lost in it and I refused to part with it until I’d finished it. I am eager to know if the sequel is as brilliant – watch this space.

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