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The Villa
2023
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While on a girls trip to Italy with her best friend, Chess, Emily discovers their high-end villa was once the scene of a brutal murder, and, digging into the past, finds the truth seeping into the present as dangerous betrayals emerge. 200,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)

From the New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins comes a deliciously wicked new gothic suspense, set at an Italian villa with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware. - (McMillan Palgrave)

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!

"Hawkins weaves an engrossing tale about betrayal, sisterhood, and the power of telling your own story. Captivating!" ––People

"Hawkins is the reigning queen of suspense." ––Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author

The bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs returns with a brilliant new gothic suspense set at an Italian villa with a dark history.


As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend.

Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday home now, but in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato, and rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. In an attempt to reignite his creative spark, Noel invites up-and-coming musician, Pierce Sheldon to join him, as well as Pierce’s girlfriend, Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. But he also sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Mari writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, Lara composing a platinum album––and ends in Pierce’s brutal murder.

As Emily digs into the villa’s complicated history, she begins to think there might be more to the story of that fateful summer in 1974. That perhaps Pierce’s murder wasn’t just a tale of sex, drugs, and rock & roll gone wrong, but that something more sinister might have occurred––and that there might be clues hidden in the now-iconic works that Mari and Lara left behind.

Yet the closer that Emily gets to the truth, the more tension she feels developing between her and Chess. As secrets from the past come to light, equally dangerous betrayals from the present also emerge––and it begins to look like the villa will claim another victim before the summer ends.

Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the infamous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at a Lake Geneva castle––the birthplace of Frankenstein––The Villa welcomes you into its deadly legacy.

- (McMillan Palgrave)

Author Biography

Rachel Hawkins is the New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs, Reckless Girls, The Villa, and The Heiress, as well as multiple books for young readers. Her work has been translated into over a dozen languages. She studied gender and sexuality in Victorian literature at Auburn University and currently lives in Alabama. - (McMillan Palgrave)

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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Embroiled in a bitter divorce and struggling with writer's block, cozy author Emma Sheridan gratefully accepts an invitation from her best friend, self-help guru Chess Chandler, to spend the summer in an Italian villa. Despite Villa Aestas' sun-drenched beauty, Emma is drawn to the house's sordid history: up-and-coming musician Pierce Sheldon was murdered there in 1975. Even more fascinating, famous author Mari Godwick penned her genre-defining horror novel, Lilith Rising, at the villa during the same summer when Pierce, Mari's boyfriend, died. Cozies lose their appeal for Emma, and she turns to true crime, determined to write the story of the villa's bloody past. In an alternating narrative, Mari provides insight into the tensions that bred Pierce's murder, especially those surrounding her sister, Lara, unwanted in the villa and struggling for recognition for her own musical talent and her desire for their rock-star host, Gordon. As Mari's story darkens, old resentments between Emma and Chess resurface, and Emma's suspicion that Chess is closer to her vengeful ex-husband than she's revealed casts a dangerous shadow on their retreat. Feminist themes, ruthlessness, and alluring settings forge links to Hawkins' last thriller, Reckless Girls (2022), but this story's finely honed interplay of creative ambition and haunting sadness makes it a step above. Here, Hawkins pokes at the darker aspects of both true crime and self-help, and it works beautifully. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Hawkins' star is definitely on the rise after two bestsellers, and this one will propel her further into the stratosphere. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

In 1974, bad-boy rock star Noel Gordon recharged creatively at the Italian villa where childhood friends Emily and Chess are now reconnecting. Among his guests was rising-star Pierce Sheldon, who was murdered there, and as Emily begins digging into the villa's past, she senses there's more to that story than revealed at the time. Following the New York Times best-selling Reckless Girls; with a 200,000-copy first printing.

Copyright 2022 Library Journal.

Library Journal Reviews

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.—Vicki Briner

Copyright 2022 Library Journal.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Friendship and professional jealousy fuel this nail-biter from bestseller Hawkins (The Wife Upstairs). As children, Chess Chandler and Emily Sheridan were inseparable, but they grew apart as adults. Chess became a popular self-help guru with books, videos, and TED talks, while Emily found moderate success writing an amateur sleuth mystery series. Chess's star and wealth continue to rise as Emily deals with a divorce conflict over her royalties, health problems, and writer's block. Then Chess suggests a "hard reset" to their friendship with a six-week stay at Villa Aestas outside Orvieto, Italy. Emily is reluctant until she learns the villa was rented in the summer of 1974 by rock star Noel Gordon. The villa became known as the Murder House after a guest of Noel's, an unknown musician, was murdered there that summer. The villa—and its past, chronicled in a hidden diary—energizes Emily, who begins to write again, starting with the provocative first sentence: "Houses remember." But Chess is stymied, unable to work until she finds Emily's rough draft. Intense characters complement the brisk plot, which shifts smoothly between the present and 1974. Hawkins consistently entertains. Agent: Holly Root, Root Literary. (Jan.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

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