Skip to main content

The Family Remains


The Family Remains

There’s a saying that goes, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” The characters in Lisa Jewell’s latest thriller need a medic, stat. THE FAMILY REMAINS is a stand-alone sequel to 2019’s THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS and weaves a complex, thorny tapestry of love, marriage, deceit and murder.

Decades-old bones are discovered on the banks of the Thames, near the house at 16 Cheyne Walk, where horrible atrocities occurred. DCI Samuel Owusu is determined to find out who this young woman was --- and, given the skull fractures clearly evident during the autopsy, who killed her and why. He is convinced that the body must be connected to the house on Cheyne Walk and the nefarious activities that took place there years ago. Now he just needs to prove it.

"Fans of Shari Lapena and Liane Moriarty will love this taut, twisty thriller about complicated family ties, secrets and murder."

Rachel Rimmer gets a call early one morning from the French police. They inform her that her husband, Michael, has been found dead in the cellar of his house in France, an apparent murder victim. After receiving this gut-wrenching news, Rachel “stared blankly for a moment toward the window, where the summer sun was leaking through the edges of the blind. She sighed heavily. Then she pulled her sleep mask down, turned onto her side, and went back to sleep.”

In another part of London, Lucy Lamb and her children have moved into her brother Henry’s apartment. Thirty years ago, Lucy and Henry’s parents allowed a couple to enter their house and take over their lives, resulting in a murder-suicide pact. The estate has finally been settled, leaving the two siblings well off financially but unsettled in almost every other area of their lives. Henry is obsessed with finding Phin, who also grew up in their house of horrors but made it out and hasn’t been in contact since. Is it obsessive love or a yearning to feel complete that compels him in his search?

According to Henry, “I am awash with emotion for which I have insufficient language. A churning in my soul of loss and emptiness and lack and incompleteness. I am incomplete. I have always felt incomplete. And I have thought at various points throughout my life that just around the next corner would be the thing that would complete me, that returning to my childhood home would complete me, being rich and successful, being buff and pretty, having good sex with bad men, bad sex with good men, love affairs with no love, a stunning kitchen with touch-to-open cupboard doors --- I have thought that all of these things would complete me and none of them has.”

Henry plans to surprise Phin in Botswana, where he works as a game ranger. But after learning about his unexpected visitor, Phin hightails it to Chicago, and Henry makes a detour there as well. Lucy is worried about what Henry will do, so she and her two youngest children follow him to Chicago, hoping to find him before he tracks down Phin.

Lisa Jewell is supremely adept at weaving together seemingly disparate narratives into a story that grabs you from the beginning and refuses to relent until the end. While it is not necessary to have read THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS to enjoy this one, it certainly would enhance the experience. Chapters alternate narrators and time frames, which can be a bit perplexing at first, but ultimately it heightens the drama of the tale. Fans of Shari Lapena and Liane Moriarty will love this taut, twisty thriller about complicated family ties, secrets and murder.

Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on August 12, 2022

The Family Remains
by Lisa Jewell