Lisa Jewell’s “The Family Remains” is out now. A sequel to the famous “The Family Upstairs” (2019), this book involves more or less the same characters and deals with the same tragedy as the previous one, adding new twists and turns to the existing creepy plot. Those who have read Jewell’s “The Family Upstairs” would know that it deals with a character called Libby Jones, who has just come upon her family’s inheritance, a massive house in Chelsea. Her parents had died when she was little, and the house that she received from a trust had quite a history. Apparently, years ago, the police found little Libby upstairs cooing in her crib, while downstairs, there were three dead bodies dressed in black. Later, Libby attempts to find out about the two other people who were also in line for the inheritance, her only living family members, Lucy and Henry, with the help of her journalist boyfriend, Miller Roe.
The sequel opens with detective Samuel Owusu sending a bag full of bones for forensic investigation. The bag was retrieved from the Thames, and soon it was found out that the bones belonged to a woman, someone who probably practiced ballet for quite a while. Traces of costly towels were also found, which led the crime detective to dig deeper for the personal details of the victim. Bridget Dunlop-Evers, or Birdie as she was known, is the victim. She was a musician in a famous band, and with her hippie boyfriend Justin, she was looking for a place to stay. She finally got one when a friend of hers was willing to let her stay in their big house; it was what she had told her younger brother Philip. Coincidentally, this big house is the same big house that belonged to Libby Jones, the one she had put up for sale until very recently. According to the forensic department, the bones are from 1995 and have been disposed of in the Thames in the span of the last six months to one year. So the person who killed Henry, Lucy, and Libby’s family is the one who killed Birdie too and, for some unexplained reason, came back for her bones and threw her remains in the river. But why would a killer do that?
At the same time, we see Henry Lamb trying to track down Phin, or Finn, as he is now known, under the pseudonym of Joshua. Phin is short for Phineas Thomsen, the son of David and Sally Thomsen and the brother of Clemency Thomsen. The older Thomsen were the ones who had invaded the Lamb mansion, tried to dupe the Lambs, tortured them, and were involved in their murder too. The younger Lambs and Thomsens (Henry and Lucy Lamb and Phineas and Clemency Thomsen) had somehow escaped the monstrous site and the people and have been on the run since. They have made false passports so that their real identity cannot be tracked. Lucy has lived in France for a while with her kids, Marco and Stella, and has come back only for the money from the inheritance. Henry is well-established and earns a lot of money, but for some reason, he has never been able to get over his obsession with Phin, and when he hears from Libby that they know where Phin currently is, he tries to hunt him down. He finds out that Phin is in Chicago and takes a flight immediately, letting Lucy worry about what he intends to do. Lucy leaves no stone unturned, and after Henry blocks her, she takes his son Marco and his friend Alf’s help to track down Henry. Lucy is worried that Henry might do something to Phin again, as he had done years ago. It turns out that Henry was always in love with Phin, but since it went unreciprocated, he lost his mind and tried to harm him by throwing him into a pond and later tying him to a radiator. Both times, Phin had somehow survived and didn’t want anything to do with Henry or any one of the lambs any longer.
In another part of the story, we see Rachel Gold waking up to the news that her husband, Michael Rimmer, was murdered by someone in his own house in France. The French police call her to let her know, and after hearing the news, she goes off to sleep. The readers are told the story of how a 33-year-old woman named Rachel Gold falls for Michael, a very rich businessman (what he deals in is not exactly clear) who has a house in Antibes and an apartment in Fulham. She got married to him after knowing him for only three months. The man and we get to know that Michael Rimmer was once married to Lucy, and they have got divorced due to some reason unknown to both Rachel and us, the readers. Michael soon turns out to be a sort of middle-aged freak, someone who is immensely insecure about himself and his age difference from Rachel. His business doesn’t go well, and soon when he is losing money, he becomes entirely dependent on Rachel, and one night he ends up raping her.
All these threads are brought together to build a plot that is intricate and intense, and it can stand alone despite the already existing prequel. This 435-page novel published by Century is definitely a worthwhile read, especially if you are into thrillers and psychological murder mysteries. With this book, Lisa Jewell has yet again proved her prowess as a brilliant crime fiction novelist. It is wrought with fear, tension, and anxiety, and you cannot put it down unless you have turned the last page.