Review of The Villa by Rachel Hawkins
The past timeline explores creativity, love, betrayal, and unexpected loops of consequence--which are echoed hauntingly in the present timeline as Chess and Emily's desire for success tests the bonds of their volatile decades-long friendship.
The Villa is gothic suspense told in two timelines, both at the same Italian villa, where dark mysteries and wicked turns abound.
Emily and Chess were childhood friends and were once as close as sisters--sisters who fight and snarkily undermine each other, then unfailingly reunite.
Beautiful, flighty Chess is a popular, single self-help author and influencer, while Emily, who is emerging from a mysterious long-term illness and in the middle of a contentious divorce, is the author of a successful series of cozy mysteries--but she just can't get her tenth book going. The stresses and pulls on their time have caused them to grow apart, so a writing vacation together at Villa Aestas sounds like the perfect way to reconnect.
But Emily is immediately reminded how often Chess leaves her in the lurch, and if she's honest with herself, she's not sure she can truly trust her.
As Emily digs into the villa's complicated and dark history and delves into the past, the growing tensions between Emily and Chess threaten their bonds of friendship.
Hawkins takes us back and forth from the decades-old mystery and deaths at the villa to the growing unease in the present between two women whose relationship seems destined to end in terrible consequences.
I was more solidly hooked on the past timeline because Mari felt like the most well-developed character in the book. As in Hawkins's Reckless Girls, I found myself disliking many of the characters, and this seems to be deliberate on the author's part, as the characters' various destructive, silly, and dangerously selfish behaviors lead to Big Trouble in both timelines here.
The "She is inevitable" references unfailingly reminded me of bad-guy Thanos's catchphrase "I am inevitable," and the Marvel mental images jarred me from this story each time that line appeared.
The end portion of the book introduces doubts about the facts as presented and offers haunting, unexpected consequences.
I received a prepublication copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and St. Martin's Press.
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