Jumping between two time lines and following two woman, Rachel Hawkins “The Villa” is a richly detailed and mysterious rehashing of the infamous time that Mary Shelley spent in Geneva where she wrote the seminal “Frankenstein”. In 1974, Villa Aestas in Italy was called home by a group of rock stars, musicians, their tag-a-long friends, and Mari, the girlfriend of the musician Pierce Sheldon and a writer herself. Moving forward to modern day, Emily is invited to the beautiful Villa by her girl-boss, blonde best friend Chess who she has started feeling a rift with. Emily is also a writer and is inspired to tell the story of Mary, Pierce, her step-sister Lara, and their other companion’s during that summer in the 70’s that ended in murder. But the closer she gets to the truth, the more things in her own life start to feel disquieting.
Let me start this review by saying, I am not a mystery or thriller reader. I have dabbled in some works, like Gillian Flynn or Maureen Johnson, but it’s a genre I rarely pick up. Recently though I have found most books have not been able to hold my attention. So, I figured, why not try a mystery where I just HAVE to know the ending. And it worked! This was such a fun twist on a classic; with rock stars and girl bosses replacing Romantic-era sheltered writers and a sunny retreat in Italy with the stormy Swiss alps. It’s impressive how Hawkins was able to keep the gothic tension in her modern adaptation. By retelling the story of the writer of Frankenstein rather than Frankenstein itself, Hawkins was able to delve deep into characters and their relationships with each other as they mirrored the tense circumstance of Frankenstein’s (the book, not the monster’s) creation.