The Family Upstairs

The Family Upstairs

by Lisa Jewell

Hardcover

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Overview

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A GOOD MORNING AMERICA COVER TO COVER BOOK CLUB PICK

“Rich, dark, and intricately twisted, this enthralling whodunit mixes family saga with domestic noir to brilliantly chilling effect.” —Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author

“A haunting, atmospheric, stay-up-way-too-late read.” —Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author

From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

★ 09/09/2019

Twenty-five years before the present-day action of this un-put-downable psychological thriller from bestseller Jewell (Watching You), the bodies of Henry and Martina Lamb and an unknown man were found in the Lambs’ mansion in London’s exclusive Chelsea district. How did they die, and where were the Lambs’ children? Three entwined stories provide some answers. Homeless Lucy, a busking violinist, is sitting on a French beach with her son when she receives a message on her phone: “The baby is 25.” Lucy’s account of her voyage to London merges with that of Libby Jones. Libby, adopted when she was around a year old, is working for a kitchen design company in St. Albans when she receives the news that she has inherited the Lambs’ family home. Henry, the Lambs’ son, describes his childhood and the terrifying events that changed all their lives when the charismatic charlatan David Thomsen came to stay. Investigating her past, Libby gets much more than she bargained for. Distinct, well-developed characters, shifting points of view, and a disturbing narrative that pulses with life create an enthralling tale full of surprises. Agent: Deborah Schneider, Gelfman Schneider Literary. (Nov.)

Shelf Awareness

"Jewell excels in creating complex characters, building tension and keeping readers in the dark yet riveted until the "Aha!" moments...this thriller unfolds and concludes in a very satisfying way."

The Seattle Review of Books

"A master at unspooling tightly told tales, Jewell specializes in perfectly-pitched thrillers without sacrificing a drop of her characters’ complexities, secrets, and desires, and this latest one is no exception."

Brit+Co

"A juicy new page-turner."

Woman's World Magazine

Eerie and bone-chilling...this page turner surprises and stuns.

Real Simple

"[A] spine-tingling thriller...Lisa Jewell’s gripping novel Watching You unravels a tangled web of rumors—and a shocking twist."

Booklist

"Stellar domestic drama...Expert misdirection keeps the reader guessing, and the rug-pulled-out-from-beneath-your-feet conclusion—coupled with one final, bonechilling revelation—is stunning. Best not to bet on anyone. A compulsive read guaranteed to please fans of A. J. Finn and Ruth Ware."

Bustle

"This suspense is going to have you turning the pages all night long."

PopSugar

"Watching You takes the idea of obsession to chilling heights."

InStyle

"Big Little Lies-esque small town drama with stakes as high as Amy from Gone Girl's IQ, Lisa Jewell's latest thriller is not to be missed."

Cosmopolitan

"A twisty whodunit."

A.J. Finn

Page one intrigued me. Page three hooked me. By page five, I was consumed. This compulsive, propulsive novel is both a seize-you-by-the-throat thriller and a genuinely moving family drama. Stellar.

People

A twisty British mystery...Brace yourself as Jewell stacks up the secrets, then lights a long, slow fuse.

New York Times Book Review

Praise for Watching You:


Quickly and assuredly, Jewell builds an ecosystem of countervailing suspicions...Tricky, clever, unexpected.”

Entertainment Weekly

"Intoxicating...[Lisa Jewell] is an author to watch."

C. L. TAYLOR

Whenever I pick up a Lisa Jewell novel I know I'm for a compelling, immersive and unputdownable read and The Family Upstairs is one of her very best. It’s an intriguing, claustrophobic and compelling mystery about a family that comes to stay and refuses to leave. I hugely enjoyed it and couldn't put it down.

LAURA MARSHALL

Wow. Lisa Jewell has done it again. I absolutely loved The Family Upstairs. Intriguing, absorbing, unputdownable with characters so real they jump from the page.”

JANE CORRY

“Utterly compelling. Deliciously dark and twisty with characters who live on in your head. Lisa Jewell just keeps getting better and better.”

ALEX MARWOOD

“Lisa Jewell is the most wonderful writer, and funnily enough we’ve written about a similar theme with our new books—cults, in microcosm and macrocosm. The Family Upstairs is out 8 August and I can’t rant enough about how brilliant it is.”

ELLY GRIFFITHS

“A stunning psychological thriller with a horrific, yet all too believable, family story at its centre. Full of atmosphere and menace. I was gripped from the first page.”

ERIN KELLY

An abandoned baby, a surprise inheritance, a cobwebbed Bohemian mansion—The Family Upstairs is rich in mystery from the very first page, and Lisa Jewell’s best book yet.”

IAN RANKIN

“A twisty and engrossing story of betrayal and redemption. Reminiscent of Donna Tartt in scope and quality.

SOPHIE HANNAH

“The perfect poolside read. The perfect anywhere read, tbh. This book is riveting, moving, and out in August. Highest possible level of recommendation.”

SARAH PINBOROUGH

“Absolutely brilliant. Great characterisation, a fascinating and dark set up and a great conclusion. She’s always great but this is next level stuff.”

ALICE FEENEY

I’m a big fan of Lisa’s books and had hoped to save it for my holiday next week, but failed miserably by devouring The Family Upstairs as soon as it arrived. I was hooked from the first page, I think it’s her best yet and hands down my favourite book so far this year.”

B. A. PARIS

I’ve just raced through the brilliantly dark and disturbing The Family Upstairs. Absolutely couldn’t put it down, it’s so good!

MEGAN MIRANDA

“A haunting, atmospheric, stay-up-way-too-late read. I was desperate to uncover all the twisting mysteries inside The Family Upstairs, layer by tangled layer. Eerie, suspenseful, and completely consuming.”

A. J. FINN

Your hands quake. Your breath fades. Your heart wallops your ribs. Medical emergency or Lisa Jewell novel? Few writers of psychological suspense devise such swift, slippery plots; fewer still people their stories with characters so human and complex. The Family Upstairs glitters like a blade and cuts even deeper.”

RUTH WARE

Praise for The Family Upstairs:

“Lisa Jewell has done it again—rich, dark and intricately twisted, this enthralling whodunnit mixes family saga with domestic noir to brilliantly chilling effect.”

Booklist (starred review)

"Stellar domestic drama...Expert misdirection keeps the reader guessing, and the rug-pulled-out-from-beneath-your-feet conclusion—coupled with one final, bonechilling revelation—is stunning. Best not to bet on anyone. A compulsive read guaranteed to please fans of A. J. Finn and Ruth Ware."

From the Publisher

Praise for The Family Upstairs:

“It's an utter triumph—swiftly paced and figure-eight twisty, yes, but also emotionally resonant. That's Lisa's secret sauce, if you ask me: her characters genuinely engage the reader.” —AJ FINN

“Absolutely brilliant. Great characterisation, a fascinating and dark set up and a great conclusion. She’s always great but this is next level stuff.” —SARAH PINBOROUGH, author of the New York Times bestseller Behind Her Eyes

“Twisty and engrossing story of betrayal and redemption. Reminiscent of Donna Tartt in scope and quality.” —IAN RANKIN, New York Times bestselling author of In House of Lies

Kirkus Reviews

2019-08-19
Three siblings who have been out of touch for more than 20 years grapple with their unsettling childhoods, but when the youngest inherits the family home, all are drawn back together.

At the age of 25, Libby Jones learns she has inherited a large London house that was held in a trust left to her by her birthparents. When she visits the lawyer, she is shocked to find out that she was put up for adoption when she was 10 months old after her parents died in the house in an apparent suicide pact with an unidentified man and that she has an older brother and sister who were teenagers at the time of their parents' deaths and haven't been seen since. Meanwhile, in alternating narratives, we're introduced to Libby's sister, Lucy Lamb, who's on the verge of homelessness with her two children in the south of France, and her brother, Henry Lamb, who's attempting to recall the last few disturbing years with his parents during which they lost their wealth and were manipulated into letting friends move into their home. These friends included the controlling but charismatic David Thomsen, who moved his own wife and two children into the rooms upstairs. Henry also remembers his painful adolescent confusion as he became wildly infatuated with Phineas, David's teenage son. Meanwhile, Libby connects with Miller Roe, the journalist who covered the story about her family, and the pair work together to find her brother and sister, determine what happened when she was an infant, and uncover who has recently been staying in the vacant house waiting for Libby to return. As Jewell (Watching You, 2018, etc.) moves back and forth from the past to the present, the narratives move swiftly toward convergence in her signature style, yet with the exception of Lucy's story, little suspense is built up and the twists can't quite make up for the lack of deep characters and emotionally weighty moments.

This thriller is taut and fast-paced but lacks compelling protagonists.

Library Journal

★ 02/01/2020

The three characters telling this twisted saga were all children in a mansion in the 1980s and 1990s as circumstances became darker and darker, finally ending in the deaths of the four adults who had literally kept the children under lock and key. The main setting is the London mansion that had been the home of Henry and Lucy Lamb and their parents, Henry and Martina. When Henry and Lucy were 11 and nine respectively, their household changed dramatically and continued to spiral downward for five years. Owing to Mr. Lamb's dwindling fortunes, and Mrs. Lamb's boredom with everyday life, new people were invited to move into the home, including a family with a boy and a girl close to the ages of Henry and Lucy. As the father of the new family gained power over the adults and then the children, life in the house became more and more bizarre, including dietary restrictions, clothing restrictions, and eventually restrictions on contact with the outside world. Narrators Tamaryn Payne, Bea Holland, and Dominic Thornburn portray each of the character voices with warmth and sympathy. VERDICT This thriller will stay with the listener long after the last line is spoken.—Ann Weber, Bellarmine Coll. Prep., San Jose, CA

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501190100
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 11/05/2019
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 76,580
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Libby picks up the letter off the doormat. She turns it in her hands. It looks very formal; the envelope is cream in color, made of high-grade paper, and feels as though it might even be lined with tissue. The postal frank says: “Smithkin Rudd & Royle Solicitors, Chelsea Manor Street, SW3.”

She takes the letter into the kitchen and sits it on the table while she fills the kettle and puts a tea bag in a mug. Libby is pretty sure she knows what’s in the envelope. She turned twenty-five last month. She’s been subconsciously waiting for this envelope. But now that it’s here she’s not sure she can face opening it.

She picks up her phone and calls her mother.

“Mum,” she says. “It’s here. The letter from the trustees.”

She hears a silence at the other end of the line. She pictures her mum in her own kitchen, a thousand miles away in Dénia: pristine white units, lime-green color-coordinated kitchen accessories, sliding glass doors onto a small terrace with a distant view to the Mediterranean, her phone held to her ear in the crystal-studded case that she refers to as her bling.

“Oh,” she says. “Right. Gosh. Have you opened it?”

“No. Not yet. I’m just having a cup of tea first.”

“Right,” she says again. Then she says, “Shall I stay on the line? While you do it?”

“Yes,” says Libby. “Please.”

She feels a little breathless, as she sometimes does when she’s just about to stand up and give a sales presentation at work, like she’s had a strong coffee. She takes the tea bag out of the mug and sits down. Her fingers caress the corner of the envelope and she inhales.

“OK,” she says to her mother, “I’m doing it. I’m doing it right now.”

Her mum knows what’s in here. Or at least she has an idea, though she was never told formally what was in the trust. It might, as she has always said, be a teapot and a ten-pound note.

Libby clears her throat and slides her finger under the flap. She pulls out a sheet of thick cream paper and scans it quickly:

To Miss Libby Louise Jones

As trustee of the Henry and Martina Lamb Trust created on 12 July 1977, I propose to make the distribution from it to you described in the attached schedule...

She puts down the covering letter and pulls out the accompanying paperwork.

“Well?” says her mum, breathlessly.

“Still reading,” she replies.

She skims and her eye is caught by the name of a property. Sixteen Cheyne Walk, SW3. She assumes it is the property her birth parents were living in when they died. She knows it was in Chelsea. She knows it was big. She assumed it was long gone. Boarded up. Sold. Her breath catches hard at the back of her throat when she realizes what she’s just read.

“Er,” she says.

“What?”

“It looks like... No, that can’t be right.”

“What!”

“The house. They’ve left me the house.”

“The Chelsea house?”

“Yes,” she says.

“The whole house?”

“I think so.” There’s a covering letter, something about nobody else named on the trust coming forward in due time. She can’t digest it at all.

“My God. I mean, that must be worth...”

Libby breathes in sharply and raises her gaze to the ceiling. “This must be wrong,” she says. “This must be a mistake.”

“Go and see the solicitors,” says her mother. “Call them. Make an appointment. Make sure it’s not a mistake.”

“But what if it’s not a mistake? What if it’s true?”

“Well then, my angel,” says her mother—and Libby can hear her smile from all these miles away—“you’ll be a very rich woman indeed.”

Libby ends the call and stares around her kitchen. Five minutes ago, this kitchen was the only kitchen she could afford, this flat the only one she could buy, here in this quiet street of terraced cottages in the backwaters of St. Albans. She remembers the flats and houses she saw during her online searches, the little intakes of breath as her eye caught upon the perfect place—a suntrap terrace, an eat-in kitchen, a five-minute walk to the station, a bulge of ancient leaded windows, the suggestion of cathedral bells from across a green—and then she would see the price and feel herself a fool for ever thinking it might be for her.

She compromised on everything in the end to find a place that was close to her job and not too far from the train station. There was no gut instinct as she stepped across the threshold; her heart said nothing to her as the estate agent showed her around. But she made it a home to be proud of, painstakingly creaming off the best that T.J.Maxx had to offer, and now her badly converted, slightly awkward one-bedroom flat makes her feel happy. She bought it; she adorned it. It belongs to her.

But now it appears she is the owner of a house on the finest street in Chelsea and suddenly her flat looks like a ridiculous joke. Everything that was important to her five minutes ago feels like a joke—the £1,500-a-year raise she was just awarded at work, the hen weekend in Barcelona next month that took her six months to save for, the MAC eye shadow she “allowed” herself to buy last weekend as a treat for getting the pay raise, the soft frisson of abandoning her tightly managed monthly budget for just one glossy, sweet-smelling moment in House of Fraser, the weightlessness of the tiny MAC bag swinging from her hand, the shiver of placing the little black capsule in her makeup bag, of knowing that she owned it, that she might in fact wear it in Barcelona, where she might also wear the dress her mother bought her for Christmas, the one from French Connection with the lace panels she’d wanted for ages. Five minutes ago her joys in life were small, anticipated, longed-for, hard-earned and saved-up-for, inconsequential little splurges that meant nothing in the scheme of things but gave the flat surface of her life enough sparkles to make it worth getting out of bed every morning to go and do a job which she liked but didn’t love.

Now she owns a house in Chelsea and the proportions of her existence have been blown apart.

She slides the letter back into its expensive envelope and finishes her tea.

Customer Reviews