Cover image for The family upstairs : a novel
The family upstairs : a novel
Large print ed.
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487 pages (large print) ; 23 cm.
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Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she's been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am. She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London's fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby's life is about to change. But what she can't possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well--and she is on a collision course to meet them. Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.--


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A New York Times Bestselling AuthorSoon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she's been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London's fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby's life is about to change. But what she can't possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well -- and she is on a collision course to meet them.Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

Author Notes

Lisa Jewell lives in London with her husband and their cat.

Lisa Jewell (born July 19, 1968) is a popular British author of women's fiction. Her books include Ralph's Party, Thirtynothing, After The Party, a sequel to Ralph's Party, and most recently The House We Grew Up In.

Jewell is one of the most popular authors writing in the UK today. In 2008, she was awarded the Melissa Nathan Award For Comedy Romance for her novel 31 Dream Street. Her titles often reach the bestseller list like, I Found You, in 2017 and Then She Was Gone, in 2018.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Twenty-five years before the present-day action of this un-put-downable psychological thriller from bestseller Jewell (Watching You), the bodies of Henry and Martina Lamb and an unknown man were found in the Lambs' mansion in London's exclusive Chelsea district. How did they die, and where were the Lambs' children? Three entwined stories provide some answers. Homeless Lucy, a busking violinist, is sitting on a French beach with her son when she receives a message on her phone: "The baby is 25." Lucy's account of her voyage to London merges with that of Libby Jones. Libby, adopted when she was around a year old, is working for a kitchen design company in St. Albans when she receives the news that she has inherited the Lambs' family home. Henry, the Lambs' son, describes his childhood and the terrifying events that changed all their lives when the charismatic charlatan David Thomsen came to stay. Investigating her past, Libby gets much more than she bargained for. Distinct, well-developed characters, shifting points of view, and a disturbing narrative that pulses with life create an enthralling tale full of surprises. Agent: Deborah Schneider, Gelfman Schneider Literary. (Nov.)

Booklist Review

Libby receives a surprise inheritance on her twenty-fifth birthday: she's been left a mansion in London's Chelsea neighborhood, the house where she was abandoned as a baby. It was a huge scandal at the time, as she was clean and cared for, but her parents were long dead in the kitchen, having entered into a suicide pact. All of this had been hidden from Libby until now, and she's determined to find out the truth behind her family's history. Meanwhile, in France, Lucy travels from hostel to hostel with her two children in tow, barely getting by as a street musician, when she gets a mysterious text that drives her to extremes in order to get back to London. Her connection to the Chelsea house (and therefore Libby) is at the heart of Jewell's latest thriller. The suspense mounts, moving from Libby to Lucy in the present as well as in mesmerizing flashbacks. No one is quite whom they seem to be, and everyone is willing to do whatever is needed in order to get what they want. Another dark winner from Jewell, who expertly teases out her tricky tale with stunning moments and richly drawn characters.--Rebecca Vnuk Copyright 2010 Booklist

Guardian Review

The Girl Who Lived Twice (MacLehose, £20, translated from Swedish by George Goulding) is the third instalment in David Lagercrantz 's continuation of Stieg Larsson's Millennium series featuring ferocious uber-hacker Lisbeth Salander and crusading investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist. While Lagercrantz's prose is more serviceable than the peculiarly clodhopping original writing, by this point the main characters have, sadly, become subject to the law of diminishing returns - in particular Salander, who is now just another all-purpose kick-ass heroine; despite the all-guns-blazing ending, there's a half-heartedness to the story of her continued battle with twin sister Camilla. Far more intriguing, despite its unlikely beginnings, is the investigation into an ill-fated Everest expedition, although the necessity of shoehorning the narrative into the Millennium framework distances the action, thereby lessening its dramatic impact. At the start of Lisa Jewell 's latest psychological thriller, The Family Upstairs (Century, £12.99), Libby, who has just turned 25, inherits a house in Chelsea. Adopted, she has little knowledge of her origins, but now she learns that the property belonged to her family and that she was found there as a baby, alone but for the corpses of her birth parents and an unknown man. Her two siblings, then teenagers, had disappeared, and haven't been heard of since. The narrative baton passes between Libby, who is trying to discover more about the past; mother-of-two Lucy, virtually destitute on the Côte d'Azur; and Henry, who tells the story of how his parents became victims of charismatic David Thomsen, who moved into their home and made himself theleader of a micro-cult, stripping them of all their possessions. The connections between the three, and the true extent of the devastation, gradually become clear. Creepy, intricate and utterly immersive: an excellent holiday read. Take It Back by Kia Abdullah (HQ, £12.99) explores uncomfortable issues around class, gender, religion and prejudice. When Jodie, a 16-year-old white girl with facial deformities, accuses four Muslim teenagers of raping her, who is telling the truth? The boys, who corroborate each other's stories, come from hardworking immigrant families and have a lot more going for them than pitiful Jodie, who lives on a squalid estate with her neglectful alcoholic mother and is routinely bullied at school. One of the few people who believes her is her lawyer, Zara Kaleel, who has defied her family in throwing over both her marriage and her membership of a prestigious chambers, and now works with victims of sexual assault. The trial becomes a flashpoint and, as battle lines are drawn, Kaleel is branded a traitor to the Muslim community and the truth begins to look ever more complicated. This is a superb legal thriller that fairly crackles with tension. The second outing for Martyn Waites's Tom Killgannon, The Sinner (Zaffre, £18.99), takes place after the courtroom action is over. The former undercover cop, now leading a quiet life in Cornwall under witness protection, is tasked with posing as a prisoner in order to discover where serial child killer Noel Cunningham has buried his two final victims. Once in jail, Tom is in the process of befriending his repulsive cellmate when gangster-turned-prison-kingpin Dean Foley, behind bars as the result of Tom's efforts, recognises him. Not only is Foley out for revenge, but Tom's handlers on the outside have stopped taking his calls ... Pacey but atmospheric, with a palpable sense of claustrophobia and menace. Former foreign correspondent Tim MacGabhann's debut novel, Call Him Mine (W&N, £16.99), paints a picture of Mexico that would not find favour with the tourist board: pollution, drug cartels, lawlessness, missing people and a mountain of dirty money. Journalist Andrew and his photographer lover Carlos are working on a piece about the country's former oil capital, Poza Rica, when they come across the mutilated body of a student activist. Carlos's desire to investigate further gets him tortured and killed. Andrew, grieving and jittery on a diet of coffee and LSD, sets off on a quest for answers that leads him into a web of corruption stretching all the way to the boardrooms of America. Strong stuff, but MacGabhann's blend of violent action and vivid, even lyrical description is laced with dark humour and is very readable. Those who prefer something gentler should pick up The Case of the Wandering Scholar (Bloomsbury, £14.99). The second book in Kate Saunders's Victorian series featuring archdeacon's-widow-turned-sleuth Laetitia Rodd begins with a missing person. It's 1851 and Jacob Welland's dying wish is to be reunited with the brother he hasn't seen for 15 years, but eccentric Joshua, who left Oxford University to live the life of a rural tramp, is proving hard to find. Laetitia heads out to the countryside in search of him, but all is not well between Rachel and Arthur Somers, the old acquaintances with whom she is staying, and she soon finds herself with more than one mystery to solve. With a well-crafted plot, an engaging protagonist, and astute nods to the literature and theological squabbles of the period, this is a perfect novel for a summer afternoon.

Kirkus Review

Three siblings who have been out of touch for more than 20 years grapple with their unsettling childhoods, but when the youngest inherits the family home, all are drawn back together.At the age of 25, Libby Jones learns she has inherited a large London house that was held in a trust left to her by her birthparents. When she visits the lawyer, she is shocked to find out that she was put up for adoption when she was 10 months old after her parents died in the house in an apparent suicide pact with an unidentified man and that she has an older brother and sister who were teenagers at the time of their parents' deaths and haven't been seen since. Meanwhile, in alternating narratives, we're introduced to Libby's sister, Lucy Lamb, who's on the verge of homelessness with her two children in the south of France, and her brother, Henry Lamb, who's attempting to recall the last few disturbing years with his parents during which they lost their wealth and were manipulated into letting friends move into their home. These friends included the controlling but charismatic David Thomsen, who moved his own wife and two children into the rooms upstairs. Henry also remembers his painful adolescent confusion as he became wildly infatuated with Phineas, David's teenage son. Meanwhile, Libby connects with Miller Roe, the journalist who covered the story about her family, and the pair work together to find her brother and sister, determine what happened when she was an infant, and uncover who has recently been staying in the vacant house waiting for Libby to return. As Jewell (Watching You, 2018, etc.) moves back and forth from the past to the present, the narratives move swiftly toward convergence in her signature style, yet with the exception of Lucy's story, little suspense is built up and the twists can't quite make up for the lack of deep characters and emotionally weighty moments.This thriller is taut and fast-paced but lacks compelling protagonists. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

Jewell's tenth novel (after Watching You) starts with Libby, who just turned 25, inheriting a London townhouse worth millions from her biological parents. She was told that her parents died in a car crash, but that was a lie to shield her. In fact, she was discovered as a baby in the townhouse, well cared for but with the decaying bodies of her parents and an unknown man. The police report says that all three adults died in a suicide pact. But did they? Neighbors, although rarely seeing anyone, thought several children and adults were living there. Where are they? And where is Libby's older brother and sister? Libby can't rest until she discovers what happened to her and her family all those years ago. VERDICT Readers won't be able to put this novel down. Just when they think they have figured it all out, the story twists and turns right up to the last chilling line. Highly recommended for fans of authors such as Gillian Flynn and V.C. Andrews. [See Prepub Alert, 4/8/19.]--Susan Moritz, Silver Spring, MD



Chapter 1 1 Libby picks up the letter off the doormat. She turns it in her hands. It looks very formal; the envelope is cream in color, made of high-grade paper, and feels as though it might even be lined with tissue. The postal frank says: "Smithkin Rudd & Royle Solicitors, Chelsea Manor Street, SW3." She takes the letter into the kitchen and sits it on the table while she fills the kettle and puts a tea bag in a mug. Libby is pretty sure she knows what's in the envelope. She turned twenty-five last month. She's been subconsciously waiting for this envelope. But now that it's here she's not sure she can face opening it. She picks up her phone and calls her mother. "Mum," she says. "It's here. The letter from the trustees." She hears a silence at the other end of the line. She pictures her mum in her own kitchen, a thousand miles away in Dénia: pristine white units, lime-green color-coordinated kitchen accessories, sliding glass doors onto a small terrace with a distant view to the Mediterranean, her phone held to her ear in the crystal-studded case that she refers to as her bling . "Oh," she says. "Right. Gosh. Have you opened it?" "No. Not yet. I'm just having a cup of tea first." "Right," she says again. Then she says, "Shall I stay on the line? While you do it?" "Yes," says Libby. "Please." She feels a little breathless, as she sometimes does when she's just about to stand up and give a sales presentation at work, like she's had a strong coffee. She takes the tea bag out of the mug and sits down. Her fingers caress the corner of the envelope and she inhales. "OK," she says to her mother, "I'm doing it. I'm doing it right now." Her mum knows what's in here. Or at least she has an idea, though she was never told formally what was in the trust. It might, as she has always said, be a teapot and a ten-pound note. Libby clears her throat and slides her finger under the flap. She pulls out a sheet of thick cream paper and scans it quickly: To Miss Libby Louise Jones As trustee of the Henry and Martina Lamb Trust created on 12 July 1977, I propose to make the distribution from it to you described in the attached schedule... She puts down the covering letter and pulls out the accompanying paperwork. "Well?" says her mum, breathlessly. "Still reading," she replies. She skims and her eye is caught by the name of a property. Sixteen Cheyne Walk, SW3. She assumes it is the property her birth parents were living in when they died. She knows it was in Chelsea. She knows it was big. She assumed it was long gone. Boarded up. Sold. Her breath catches hard at the back of her throat when she realizes what she's just read. "Er," she says. "What?" "It looks like... No, that can't be right." "What!" "The house. They've left me the house." "The Chelsea house?" "Yes," she says. "The whole house?" "I think so." There's a covering letter, something about nobody else named on the trust coming forward in due time. She can't digest it at all. "My God. I mean, that must be worth..." Libby breathes in sharply and raises her gaze to the ceiling. "This must be wrong," she says. "This must be a mistake." "Go and see the solicitors," says her mother. "Call them. Make an appointment. Make sure it's not a mistake." "But what if it's not a mistake? What if it's true?" "Well then, my angel," says her mother--and Libby can hear her smile from all these miles away--"you'll be a very rich woman indeed." Libby ends the call and stares around her kitchen. Five minutes ago, this kitchen was the only kitchen she could afford, this flat the only one she could buy, here in this quiet street of terraced cottages in the backwaters of St. Albans. She remembers the flats and houses she saw during her online searches, the little intakes of breath as her eye caught upon the perfect place--a suntrap terrace, an eat-in kitchen, a five-minute walk to the station, a bulge of ancient leaded windows, the suggestion of cathedral bells from across a green--and then she would see the price and feel herself a fool for ever thinking it might be for her. She compromised on everything in the end to find a place that was close to her job and not too far from the train station. There was no gut instinct as she stepped across the threshold; her heart said nothing to her as the estate agent showed her around. But she made it a home to be proud of, painstakingly creaming off the best that T.J.Maxx had to offer, and now her badly converted, slightly awkward one-bedroom flat makes her feel happy. She bought it; she adorned it. It belongs to her. But now it appears she is the owner of a house on the finest street in Chelsea and suddenly her flat looks like a ridiculous joke. Everything that was important to her five minutes ago feels like a joke--the £1,500-a-year raise she was just awarded at work, the hen weekend in Barcelona next month that took her six months to save for, the MAC eye shadow she "allowed" herself to buy last weekend as a treat for getting the pay raise, the soft frisson of abandoning her tightly managed monthly budget for just one glossy, sweet-smelling moment in House of Fraser, the weightlessness of the tiny MAC bag swinging from her hand, the shiver of placing the little black capsule in her makeup bag, of knowing that she owned it, that she might in fact wear it in Barcelona, where she might also wear the dress her mother bought her for Christmas, the one from French Connection with the lace panels she'd wanted for ages. Five minutes ago her joys in life were small, anticipated, longed-for, hard-earned and saved-up-for, inconsequential little splurges that meant nothing in the scheme of things but gave the flat surface of her life enough sparkles to make it worth getting out of bed every morning to go and do a job which she liked but didn't love. Now she owns a house in Chelsea and the proportions of her existence have been blown apart. She slides the letter back into its expensive envelope and finishes her tea. Excerpted from The Family Upstairs: A Novel by Lisa Jewell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.