I just can’t seem to help myself, but I always end up coming back to Lisa Jewell. She’s the Cadbury Dairy Milk of authors in my mind. Reliably delicious stories that never disappoint, always hit the mark, leaving you satisfied and yes, wanting more. Chances are that if I don’t know what to read, perhaps on the back of having read something that I didn’t enjoy or that was wondrously brilliant (if that makes any sense), then I’ll go for the reliable, and reach for Lisa Jewell.
The other thing that I love about Jewell’s novels is that the world she inhabits is familiar to me. I know the places that she describes and nowhere is this more true than in my latest read The Family Upstairs. It tells the story of a family based in Chelsea, London, not too far from the hospital in which my own children were born, although economically far above my reach.
Libby Jones has turned twenty-five and comes into an inheritance from her birth parents; only it’s so much more than she had ever expected. A house on Cheyne Walk, one of London’s most select neighborhoods, worth several million. The thing is that the house comes with a backstory; the mystery of Libby’s own birth. Libby was found as a baby, in the house, with three corpses lying in the kitchen. She was clean and cared for, left in a crib with a rabbit’s foot for good luck. Two of the corpses were identified as her parents, but the third belonged to an unknown male. Libby needs to find out what happened in the house, in order to properly understand her own story. Her parents had been socialites, but had vanished from the scene several years before their death. Was this the scene of a murder suicide, or did the way in which they were dressed suggest cult activity?
There’s a lot to unpack in The Family Upstairs, but Jewell does it with her usual elegance, as the pages keep turning. The narrative switches between characters as effortlessly as always, revealing flaws and undesirable human foibles along the way. This is a reliably good story, particularly if you want something to keep you occupied during our days stuck at home!