The Villa

St. Martin’s. Jan. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9781250280015. $28.99. THRILLER
In 1974, aspiring writer Mari Godwick penned her famous feminist horror novel, Lilith Rising, during a summer spent at the Villa Rosato in Italy—the same villa where her boyfriend, up-and-coming musician Pierce Sheldon, was bludgeoned to death. Now, nearly 50 years later, cozy mystery writer Emily McCrae and her wildly successful friend, self-help guru Chess Chandler, are spending six weeks in the villa. Unfortunately, the beautiful setting isn’t enough to blunt the feelings of jealousy and annoyance Emily harbors for Chess. A copy of Lilith Rising, found on a bookshelf in the house provides the escapism she needs, and before long, Emily is seeing clues around the villa and wondering what really happened that summer. Told in dual time lines, Mari’s story reads a bit like an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music, while Emily’s is more women’s fiction with a focus on her dysfunctional relationships.
VERDICT The story is a slow burn with a flame that never quite materializes. Give this one to readers looking for psychological suspense and twist endings, but those seeking high-stakes tension will want to look elsewhere.
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