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Review: The Family Upstairs / Remains

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

3/5 stars



TW: Domestic abuse, cults


A crazy thriller series that definitely kept me on my toes. Plot twists galore, and the people you think you know turn out to be something else entirely, and then just when you're getting used to the idea of who and what they really are, you find out something new and it shifts again!


Libby Jones is about to turn 25 and find out who her real parents are. The letter comes in the mail from the lawyer's office - the office that has been holding the information in trust for her until her 25th birthday. Opening the letter, she learns that not only is she the daughter of parents who seem to have killed themselves in a cult-like suicide pact, but that they've left her the mansion where they died, in London's upscale Chelsea neighborhood - a property worth millions.


As she digs deeper into her family history she learns that she once lived in the house with her parents, Martina and Henry Lamb, Sr, and two siblings, brother Henry and sister Lucy, and another mysterious family with a wife, husband, and two kids, or maybe more... No one knows for sure how many people really lived there since the Lambs and their house guests retreated into themselves and cut off communication with anyone outside the house.


All the authorities know for sure is that the parents and an unidentified man were found dead on the kitchen floor wearing homemade, shapeless black tunics, the house was almost entirely empty, and Libby (birth name Serenity) was found crying in a crib upstairs. All the rest - her siblings, and anyone else who'd lived there - have never been located. Armed with this new information, Libby is determined to solve these mysteries, but she soon gets much more than she expected when other family members, who have also been waiting for the day she turned 25, show up at the house.


The story is told in alternating perspectives, and Jewell masterfully doles out information slowly, character by character, so you never quite know everything, or you only know something from one person's point of view. Who is a reliable narrator? What are their motives? And who has something to hide? (There's one sinister character who reminded me a bit of Joe in the tv show You.)


This is a story of dark family secrets, creepy, dysfunctional relationships, con men, and cults. I could have done without the descriptions of rape, though I get how they helped explain character motivations. But the books definitely kept me guessing, which I always appreciate!

 

UP NEXT: The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill


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