Abusive Past, Modern Murder

The Family Remains

by Lisa Jewell

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the chance to review this book.

One of my favorite questions to ask other readers is, “What authors are on your auto-read list?” Lisa Jewell has been one of mine for the last couple of years, so I was excited when I first heard about her new book, The Family Remains. I was even more excited to hear that it was a continuation of The Family Upstairs, published back in 2019.

First off, you do not need to read The Family Upstairs prior to reading this book. You can absolutely read The Family Remains as a standalone. In fact, I think you can argue that the book is more exciting if you read it as a standalone because much of the plot of The Family Upstairs is rehashed in The Family Remains. It’s been several years since I’ve read The Family Upstairs, and even though it took me a second to keep the characters straight in my head, I was glad I did not refresh my memory by reading a summary of The Family Upstairs first. However, reading the second book first will absolutely spoil the “surprises” in The Family Upstairs (as will reading the rest of this review).

The Family Remains picks up soon after The Family Upstairs left off. Libby Jones has just sold her childhood home, and she’s splitting the money between her mom, Lucy Lamb, and her uncle, Henry Lamb. The family has also made arrangements to go see Libby’s birth father, Phin Thomsen, in Botswana. Henry, who is still nursing an obsession with Phin so deeply ingrained that he dyed his hair and had plastic surgery to look like him, catches wind of the trip and tries to casually tag along. However, his obsession shows through the cracks. Shortly after Lucy and Libby reveal that Henry is coming with them, Phin suddenly disappears. Henry can’t bear to let Phin slip through his fingers again, so he pulls off some next-level stalker moves and finds out that Phin went to Chicago. Henry frantically pursues Phin to Chicago and begins closing in on his location. When Lucy figures out that Henry is gone, she enlists the help of her son, Marco, to find his location. Then, uneasy by her brother’s stalker-ish behavior and the intentions behind it, she chases after him before it’s too late.

While the Lambs are in Chicago, Libby’s life begins to crumble after she is contacted by local police. A mudracker found a bag of bones in the Thames River, and the police soon identify them as belong to Birdie Dunlop-Evers. Birdie played a prominent role in The Family Upstairs, so this storyline brings her tale to fruition. Libby tries to protect her family from the fallout, but she keeps getting caught in her lies. Journalist Miller Roe is also back, and he’s having no more luck with the police. Will the authorities find out what happened in the Lambs’ house of horror?

If two storylines aren’t enough, we have a third one that plays out in this book. Rachel Gold, a 20-something jewelry designer, meets a magnetic older man named Michael Rimmer in a drugstore. Within a few months, the couple is married in a whirlwind romance. Michael seems like the perfect husband until their honeymoon, when Rachel suggests that they make things a little more interesting in the bedroom. This suggestion unleashes Michael’s dark side, and Rachel begins to see the danger lurking to the surface. Before she knows it, Rachel finds herself deeply entwined with Michael’s ex-wife, Lucy Lamb. When Michael ends up dead, Rachel has some explaining to do.

This book adds depth to The Family Upstairs and gives fans of the book a satisfying sequel to the original. Questions I had at the end of the first book were definitely answered. However, while it adds depth to the original story, there’s not a lot of new material. Most of the book chronicles Henry’s hunt for Phin, which was among my least favorite parts of the book. I really enjoyed Rachel’s story, but it only accounted for 1/3 of the plot. If you read The Family Upstairs, I think you leave this book thinking, “That felt like a summary of the first book.” If you didn’t read The Family Upstairs, I think you leave the book thinking, “I’m a little confused about what happened in that house, and I want to know more about that.” I’m torn between whether I think this book should have been a sequel or whether it should have been a couple extra chapters in the original book. While I think The Family Upstairs is a must-read for thriller fans, The Family Remains is one I could take or leave.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2

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