ARC Review: The Villa

Title: The Villa

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Genres: Adult, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: ★★★★

Links: Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

In the summer of 1974, there was a group of five staying at Villa Rosato: Mari, an aspiring author; Lara, Mari’s sister and an aspiring musician; Pierce, Mari’s husband and up-and-coming musician; Noel, a world-famous rock star; and Johnnie, whose reasons for being at the villa are not immediately clear. The summer of 1974 ends in one of the group being murdered, and inspires two of the most influential works of the century: Mari’s groundbreaking horror novel and Lara’s platinum album.

Cozy mystery author Emily is recently divorced and struggling to write her next book, so when her childhood best friend Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to get away for the summer. When they arrive at the villa (now known as Villa Aestas) in present day, Emily starts looking into the murder and begins to suspect there was much more to the story than sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

The story is told in alternating timelines, which is a trope I absolutely love in mystery/thrillers and certainly worked for me in this case as well. In terms of the 1974 storyline, I really liked that we started off the novel knowing a murder took place but not knowing the identities of the victim and murderer, nor their motive. I was really engaged as we went back in time and pieced together the chain of events leading up to that notorious crime. In the present day chapters, we gained insight into Emily and Chess’s toxic friendship. These chapters often made me really mad as I thought Chess was absolutely intolerable, but it’s to the credit of the book that it was able to make me experience such strong feelings towards her character.

The aspect of this book that I arguably loved most was the setting. I could easily envision the beautiful Italian villa and it made me desperately want to be there. This is a perfect beach or poolside read and although I think it’s worth reading at any time of the year, I would highly recommend reading this novel this summer!

I also appreciated the message of the story, which boiled down to the men in 1974 treating Mari and Lara like side characters in their story, when ultimately it is Mari and Lara who end up having the most important impact on culture. I thought there was a lot of unique commentary surrounding this concept.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time reading The Villa! If you like mystery/thrillers with toxic friendships, novels with feminist commentary, or are just looking for a good beach read for this summer, I would highly recommend this one.


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