Family should be sacred but for Edie, her family is at the root of the tragedy and heartache in her life. When her mother-in-law, Anna DeLuca, dies, Edie is relieved however the feeling is short-lived when she learns that Anna left her responsible for the old family home in Sicily along with her son Joe, Edie’s ex-husband.
Determined to get finalise the estate as soon as possible, Edie departs for Villa della Madonna del Mare. There, while trying to resist Anna’s machinations to get her and Joe back together, she uncovers Anna’s childhood photographs which include another little girl who has been scratched out. With family skeletons coming back from the past, Joe and Edie are drawn closer but to move on they need to navigate the traumatic accident that Edie blames Anna and which ultimately ripped their family to shreds.
This is a beautifully written novel and has some beautifully descriptive moments that really place you in Sicily. While it does have a strong suspense through-line it also is very much an emotional family drama which makes it a little slower than a traditional thriller, however, it does it well and it is great when authors have the skill to play with the expected tropes of genres and change them up or ix the with unexpected tropes to bring you something new.
You will enjoy this book if:
- You enjoy family stories
- You like stories set in Europe, like in Under the Tuscan Sun
- Suspense is key to you keeping the pages turning
Excerpt from The House by the Sea by Louise Douglas
Close up, the city was as lovely as it had looked from the road, unexpected views announcing themselves as we turned tight corners: a wall overlooking a ravine with a church clinging to its side; falls of bougainvillea, swallows feeding above a grand fountain, splashing water poured from the urn of a statue into a great, green bowl; patches of dark shadow, patches of bright light, dappled ground around the trees. Birds sang from their perches on flag-poles jutting over secret squares; restaurants were tucked behind houses that were stacked tightly against one another; twisting alleyways barely wide enough for two people to walk side by side; steps leading upwards, or downwards to arched doorways and tiny, vaulted bridges; the smell of good coffee; the smell of cooked cheese. Carnations and pelargoniums planted in old olive-oil tins spilled red flowers like spots of blood; caged songbirds trilled from balconies; and washing dried on wire racks hooked to windows above our heads. If it hadn’t been for the fact that it was Anna who had brought me to the place, if I could only have stopped myself from seeing the city through her eyes, imagining her imagining me and Joe here together, then I would have been utterly delighted by it.
I had to clamp my mouth shut to stop myself from pointing out the wondrous views to Joe. Eventually, hot and breathless, my skin burning and a blister forming beneath the ankle strap of one of my sandals, we found ourselves in the central piazza. In front of us the steps that led to the doors of the Duomo San Giorgio towered over the square. I would have loved to sit for a while outside the café and drink it all in, but Joe was focused on his phone. He shielded his eyes with his hand as he studied the names of the streets that led from the piazza.
‘This way,’ he said gruffly.
I followed him into a shady, cobbled alley lined with tiny, expensive shops. At the end of the street was a sign: Studio Legale Recupero.
‘There,’ said Joe. ‘That’s it.’
‘It’s very…’ grand, I was thinking. It was nothing like the office of the solicitor who’d dealt with my side of the divorce. She’d been an acquaintance of Fitz’s and every inch of available floor and table space in her scruffy little backstreet room had been piled with cardboard files. This was modern and elegant and impressive. Our two shabby reflections looked back at us through the darkened glass. Above us, cameras fixed to the lintel blinked. Joe reached up to straighten the collar of his shirt.
‘Right,’ he said. ‘Let’s get this over and done with.’
He raised his finger and pressed the buzzer. The door opened and in we went.