Monday, October 17, 2022

Book Review: The Family Remains

By Becky Gulc

Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite authors, from the early days of Ralph’s Party in the late 1990s through to her recent thrillers. I read and enjoyed the quite dark and creepy The Family Upstairs when it came out a couple of years ago and I was intrigued and pleased to find out there would be a follow-up book, The Family Remains. Here is the synopsis: 

‘Early one morning on the shore of the Thames, DCI Samuel Owusu is called to the scene of a gruesome discovery. When Owusu sends the evidence for examination, he learns the bones are connected to a cold case that left three people dead on the kitchen floor in a Chelsea mansion thirty years ago.

Rachel Rimmer has also received a shock—news that her husband, Michael, has been found dead in the cellar of his house in France. All signs point to an intruder, and the French police need her to come urgently to answer questions about Michael and his past that she very much doesn’t want to answer.

After fleeing London thirty years ago in the wake of a horrific tragedy, Lucy Lamb is finally coming home. While she settles in with her children and is just about to purchase their first-ever house, her brother takes off to find the boy from their shared past whose memory haunts their present. 

As they all race to discover answers to these convoluted mysteries, they will come to find that they’re connected in ways they could have never imagined’. (Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.)

I have a terrible memory and could only really remember broadly what happened in The Family Upstairs and I wondered if that would hamper my enjoyment of this new novel. Thankfully, it didn’t and everything came back to me as I read the novel and elements of the past were re-introduced to the reader (without ever going into old territory too much). 

The novel opens with the discovery of some human remains which (it is later discovered) are linked to a house on Cheyne Walk where three people were known to have died many years ago. It’s this house which is the focus of The Family Upstairs, the house where Henry and Lucy lived with their parents before another family joined them, which sees the demise of family life as they know it. The house is cult-like and there are some sensitive subjects covered, including abuse. 

I won’t spoil The Family Upstairs (read it) but needless to say it leaves you wanting to know what happens next and so it was great to find out in this novel. Henry is a very chilling character in both novels and it was fascinating to delve into his mind further, and as an adult this time. He definitely creeped me out and I was on tenterhooks many times on his journey to find Phin who had lived with the family on Cheyne Walk.

It was also great to meet the new character of Rachel, a strong woman who goes through a difficult time and unbeknownst to her has a link with Lucy Lamb she would rather not share. These storylines were cleverly interwoven, past and present, and the story kept surprising me. 

Lisa’s writing is as ever truly engaging from start to finish. The characters are well-formed, certainly not always likeable but given their past experiences I might make some allowances! Do you need to read The Family Upstairs before reading this? No, you don’t, but I think it would help avoid some confusion at times. Another brilliant novel from Lisa. 

More by Lisa Jewell:

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