The Villa

In Rachel Hawkins’ new book, the past is never dead; its influence is always at work.


The Villa by Rachel Hawkins. St. Martin’s Press, pp.288. $28.99. 


In this tale of female friendship and haunted houses, bestselling (and Virginia-born) author Rachel Hawkins continues to delight her audience with thrills and chills. Emily and Chess were inseparable as kids but have grown apart as adults. Now they hope to reconnect at the glamorous Villa Aestas in Orvieto. But as aspiring author Emily digs into the villa’s murderous history, equally dangerous betrayals begin to emerge. Will the villa claim another before the summer sets?

As with her previous two novels, Reckless Girls and The Wife Upstairs, Hawkins is focused on how women talk and act around one another. Perhaps like fellow author Gin Phillips, there is a balance of social awareness trickled into the mystery and mayhem. This usually strengthens the story and makes it more than just some detective story or murder book—gives it depth. 

Leaving the present day and the to friends, Hawkins’ second narrative concerns itself with the people who inhabited the villa a tragic summer long ago. As the young female writer is described alongside her husband and the cruel aristocrat (aren’t they always so…), the reader realizes these fictional characters are more real than at first supposed. This is a reimagining of the famous summer of 1814, when Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron held a ghost story contest from which Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was written. Though the style of these sections is not as eloquent or poetic as Jeanette Winterson’s in her brilliant book, Frankissstein, they are entertaining enough.

Hawkins sets out to write a thriller and she does that. She also goes a bit further this time with layers of plot and fans of her other works will not find fault in this one.


Get a copy at The Bookshop.

Konstantin Rega
A graduate of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA, Konstantin’s been published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Poetry Salzburg Review, www.jonimitchell.com, the Republic of Consciousness Prize (etc.). He contributes to Publisher Weekly and Treblezine.
June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum