Lately I’ve been “curating” my reading list straight from Goodreads choice awards (reduction in reading time, folks. Thank you, life). That’s how I found The Family Upstairs - a creepy thriller disguised as family drama. Libby Jones receives a letter after her 25th birthday stating she has inherited a grand house, which makes her search deeper into her past, revealing mysterious happenings, strange people and sinister occurrences. Going back and forth in the past and the present, this book is a take on dysfunctional dynamics in a family that can alter the way of life for generations to come.
Admittedly, it was my first Lisa Jewell book, despite her being known for popular thrillers for quite some time (read Then She Was Gone, Watching You, etc). Before delving into details I can say for sure I would look out and proactively read more books by this author, because this gothic psychological thriller did not disappoint me when I needed my quick-read fix.
The one thing that struck me as different about this story is that it’s not your typical fast-paced thriller in the traditional sense. It delves deep into family dynamics, psychology, uncomfortable but very real consequences of the tiniest emotions and actions. Perhaps that’s what makes it feel slightly unnerving - we’ve all been helpless in our relationships at some point in our lives, and reading this book can make you feel, “This could have happened to me.”
The pacing and storyline was slow, keeping in with developments that happened over the years. The narrative takes on from different POVs which was a bit confusing at first because we don't know how all these people (Libby, Henry and Lucy) are related, but hold your breath... it starts coming together towards the later end and becomes exciting when you start realising how it makes sense. I also found character development to be decent, especially for Henry, who was a child witnessing the gradual change that came in when some strangers entered their home, and their lives. The story seemed to be focused more from Henry's perspective so he was the only one I could really connect with. The others went along with the events from a secondary viewpoint.
As for the actual plot, I actually was surprised at one point with a major revelation, but that seemed to be the only part mildly ‘shocking’. The rest reads like a slow, unnerving development, so that when you’re at the end and look back, it’s when you see all that has changed. It’s not really fast-paced in that sense. It's enjoyable for its unique narration and pace.
Overall, albeit all the emotions, I enjoyed the thrill from this book. The revelation of the mystery wraps up nicely enough. It gives a satisfying ending and closure, and stays thrilling even towards the end with mysterious occurrences and behaviours. I would rate it a 4/5 and would recommend to readers looking for a mystery recommendation.