A mystery story in four parts, The Family Upstairs is a riveting tale which captures the imagination with its many points of view and a story that is woven through past and present.
The prologue starts with a one page first person narrator who briefly informs us how life changed after ‘they came’.
Then we turn the page to be introduced to Libby who has just inherited the house at the centre of the mystery -Sixteen Cheyne Walk, SW3. The house is worth millions, but Libby has no idea of who lived there before. She was found, as a baby, in a cot in one of the bedrooms while downstairs three bodies lay decomposing. It’s a mystery she wants to solve to find her true identity and the reason why she has inherited this crumbling mansion.
The next character the reader is introduced to is Lucy, living hand to mouth in France. This is another story line to follow while we try to understand the connection between these different people.
The story swings between the late 1980s and 2018 and the unreliable narrator gives us a viewpoint on a dysfunctional family under the influence of the dangerous, but charismatic, David Thomsen. His influence turns their lives upside down, and he becomes more of a despot as time goes on. What happens to break David’s hold on them all is both shocking and unexpected. In fact, there are several points in the story which keep the reader alert and wondering as the plot twists and turns.
The stories weave in and out of each other, eventually coming together in a satisfactory conclusion although the reader is left with a certain unease about what will happen next. There is something about the narrator which is unsavoury and unsettling.
This is an intricate and complex story about obsession, love, abuse and identity which unfolds layer after layer to reveal the answer to the mystery surrounding the house.
The Family Upstairs is published by Penguin. Lisa Jewell has written several other bestselling dark and suspenseful novels.