"The Thriller I Couldn't Put Down!" says Avid Romance Reader
The Villa Book Cover The Villa
Rachel Hawkins
Murder Thrillers, Suspense Thrillers, Psychological Thrillers
St. Martin's Press
January 3, 2023
hardcover, ebook, audiobook


"Hawkins weaves an engrossing tale about betrayal, sisterhood, and the power of telling your own story. Captivating!" ––People

"Hawkins is the reigning queen of suspense." ––Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author

The bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs returns with a brilliant new gothic suspense set at an Italian villa with a dark history.

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.

“Houses remember.” —The Villa

On a recent travel day that started way too early for this night owl, Rachel Hawkin’s latest release The Villawas my companion for both my flights. As a proclaimed romance reader, it takes respect for an author, coupled with an incredible blurb and an even better premise for me to even consider grabbing a thriller. After reading the blurb for The Villa, it was an absolute no-brainer to read. I grabbed both an e-book and a physical copy and have zero regrets.

For fans of Mary Shelley, true crime junkies, and those of you who are just like me and are absolutely addicted to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, The Villa combines a multitude of pop culture elements and whisks you away to a sun-baked Villa in Orvieto, Italy where our story takes place.

“Besides,” Chess adds now, guiding me farther into the house, “people get murdered in all kinds of houses, so why not gorgeous villas?”—The Villa

The Villa spoke directly to the writer that lives within me. Upon first introduction, Emily is at odds with her “best friend” since grade school. We all know this singular type of person that Chess Chandler embodies: the one who seemingly never had it together until one day they inexplicably have it all. Emily is a successful cozy mystery writer, which is an acclaim all on its own. After fighting an illness that only she takes seriously, Emily’s husband leaves her and then has the audacity to demand rights in the form of money to her bestselling book series. Nothing like kicking a girl when she’s down. It’s when Chess proposes that she and Emily spend the summer at the infamous Villa Aestas in Italy aka the “Murder House” according to Emily to work on their respective books in order to meet their looming deadlines.

This is when the timeline flips. While Emily and Chess are in Italy, readers meet the other notable guests of the Villa from the sex and drug haze of the 1970’s. Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were never truer when Mari Godwick and her lover Pierce Sheldon,  her stepsister Lara Larchmont, go to Italy for the summer upon the invitation of fellow rock sensation, Noel Gordon, and one shy man named Johnnie who is seemingly just a supplier of whatever will make the magic of music happen for both Noel and Pierce.

“People are never just gone, after all. There are always marks, always signs.” —The Villa

Both timelines unfold hand in hand. Chess and Emily are engrossed by the idea of the murders that happened during that infamous summer in the 70’s, and Emily increasingly feels like she cannot trust her mercurial friend. Meanwhile, Mari, Lara, Pierce, and Noel become tangled up in the magic of the Villa. Told through news articles, through Mari’s POV, and through snippets of both Mari’s novel Lilith Rising as well as Lara’s album Aestas, readers begin to piece together what exactly befell the Villa that summer.

I couldn’t put The Villa down. The similarities of Emily and Mari were so well-written, and the doubts that each of them had with whom they shared the Villa with mirrored each other in a way that gave me chills. There were twists I didn’t see coming, and I was gob-smacked by the ending. The Villa by Rachel Hawkins is a story that deserves a cinematic representation for sure. I definitely don’t want to give away any of the details that I loved the most, so I’ll just finish by telling you that The Villa is easily one of the top reads of the year for me.