From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set at an Italian villa with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

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.

Book Type:

Psychological Thriller

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Review: The Villa
By Rachel Hawkins

Review: The Villa

In efforts to rekindle their friendship, estranged best friends venture to an infamous Italian villa where a brutal murder took place in the 1970s.

Author Emily Sheridan is in a rut—struggling through a divorce and battling writer’s block. So, when her childhood best friend (and now famous self-help guru) Chess Chandler invites her to spend the summer at an Italian villa, she jumps at the chance. Time away is exactly what she needs to find inspiration and reconnect with her old friend.

Villa Aestas in Orvieto, Italy is a stunning, high-end holiday home notorious for what took place in 1974. Rock star Noel Gordon rented the villa that summer, inviting up-and-coming musician, Pierce Sheldon, his writer girlfriend, Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. The horror that transpired during their time together famously yielded Mari’s bestselling horror novel, Lara’s platinum-selling album, and most notably, Pierce’s brutal murder.

Emily finds inspiration—and some sinister clues—in Mari’s novel, Lilith Rising, and the more she digs, the more their tales begin to twine.

As Emily unearths secrets from the past, she also faces the possibility that Chess isn’t the friend she appears to be. Desperate to understand what really happened the summer of 1974, and how she’ll navigate Chess, Emily inadvertently tempts fate to repeat itself.

Hawkins pens a gothic thriller that’s provocative and haunting, brilliantly layered and utterly absorbing. Past and present narratives collide in a way that simultaneously ratchets tension and intensifies the need to know how everything ends. And even then, the cleverly plotted finale delivers an ending twist that makes the novel more satisfying.

Themes of friendship, betrayal, jealously, suspicion, creation, and fame all tumble together in this extraordinary thriller “inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the infamous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron.”

Perfect one-night binge and an easy 2023 favorite.

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