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Book Excerpt: Unearth Buried Secrets in Lisa Jewell’s The Family Upstairs

by  | December 20

When Libby’s 25th birthday arrives with a letter of inheritance, she realizes there is more mystery surrounding her birth family than she ever could have imagined. After learning she has been named the sole owner of an abandoned mansion in London’s Chelsea swanky neighborhood, Libby’s life changes drastically.

More than two decades prior, this mansion was the scene of a bizarre, suspicious tragedy. In the kitchen, bodies garbed in all black were discovered, while upstairs, a perfectly healthy baby girl lay nestled in her crib. The house was empty otherwise, leaving police to question the whereabouts of the other reported residents. Was Libby that baby?

Lisa Jewell’s The Family Upstairs is a page-turning thriller about a trio of tangled-up families you won’t soon forget. Check out an exclusive excerpt from the book below–and prepare to be sucked into Libby’s journey as she attempts to learn more about her birth parents’ will and the dark secrets surrounding their deaths.


Libby can hear the whisper of every moment that this room has existed, feel every breath of every person who has ever sat where she is sitting.

“Seventeen ninety-nine,” Mr. Royle had replied in answer to her earlier question. “One of the oldest legal practices in the capital.”

Mr. Royle looks at her now across his heavily waxed desktop. A smile flickers across his lips and he says, “Well, well, well. This is some birthday present, no?”

Libby smiles nervously. “I’m still not convinced it’s really true,” she says. “I keep expecting someone to tell me it’s a big windup.”

Her choice of words—big windup—feels wrong in this venerable and ancient setting. She wishes she’d used a different turn of phrase. But Mr. Royle doesn’t seem concerned. His smile stays in place as he leans forward and passes Libby a thick pile of paperwork. “No winding up, I can assure you, Miss Jones.

“Here,” he says, pulling something from the pile of paper. “I wasn’t sure whether to give this to you now. Or maybe I should have sent it to you. With the letter. I don’t know—it’s all so awkward. It was in the file and I kept it back, just in case it didn’t feel right. But it does seem the right thing to do. So here. I don’t know how much your adoptive parents were able to tell you about your birth family. But you might want to take a minute to read this.”

She unfolds the piece of newsprint and lays it out on the table in front of her.

Socialite and husband dead in suicide pact.

Teenage children missing; baby found alive.

Police yesterday were called to the Chelsea home of former socialite Martina Lamb and her husband, Henry, after reports of a possible triple suicide. Police arrived at lunchtime and found the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Lamb side by side on the floor of the kitchen. A second man, who has yet to be identified, was also found dead. A baby, believed to be female and ten months old, was found in a room on the second floor. The baby has been taken into care and is said to be in good health. Neighbors have observed that there were numerous children living in the house in recent years and there are varying reports of other adults living at the property, but no trace was found of any other residents.

The cause of death is still to be ascertained, but early blood samples tested appear to suggest that the trio may have poisoned themselves.

Henry Lamb, 48, was the sole beneficiary of the estate of his father, Mr. Harry Lamb, of Blackpool, Lancashire. He had suffered from ill health in recent years and was said to be wheelchair-bound.

Police are now trawling the country for sightings of the couple’s son and daughter, who are described as roughly fourteen to sixteen years old. Anyone with any information on the whereabouts of the children is invited to contact the Metropolitan Police at the earliest possible juncture. Anyone who may have spent time living at the property with the family in recent years is also of great interest to the police.

She stares at Mr. Royle. “Is that . . . ? The baby left behind—is that me?”

He nods. She can see genuine sadness in his eyes. “Yes,” he says. “Such a tragic story, isn’t it? And such a mystery. The children, I mean. The house was in trust for them, too, but neither of them ever came forward. I can only assume, well, that they’re . . . anyway.” He leans forward, clutches his tie, and smiles, painfully. “May I offer you a pen?”

He tips a wooden pot of expensive-looking ballpoint pens toward her and she takes one. It has the name of the firm printed on its barrel in gold script.

Libby stares at it blankly for a moment.

A brother.

A sister.

A suicide pact.

Excerpted from The Family Upstairs by Lisa JewellCopyright © 2019 by author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

The Family Upstairs

The Family Upstairs

by Lisa Jewell

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

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