Review: “The Housekeeper” by Natalie Barelli

The House Keeper by Natalie Barelli book cover

I am sitting in a large leather armchair, a reading chair. It is so comfortable that I never want to leave it.

The Housekeeper, Chapter 1 opening

Author: Natalie Barelli
Publication Date: October 31st 2019
Publisher: Furphies Press
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Format: Hardcover
Find it on: Goodreads

Synopsis

She’s a liar. She’s a stalker. She’s in your house.

When Claire sees Hannah Wilson at an exclusive Manhattan hair salon, it’s like a knife slicing through barely healed scars. It may have been ten years since Claire last saw Hannah, but she has thought of her every day, and not in a good way. So Claire does what anyone would do in her position—she stalks her.

Hannah is now Mrs. Carter, living the charmed life that should have been Claire’s. It’s the life Claire used to have, before Hannah came along and took it all away from her.

Back then, Claire was a happy teenager with porcelain skin and long, wavy blond hair. Now she’s an overweight, lazy drunk with hair the color of compost and skin to match. Which is why when Hannah advertises for a housekeeper, Claire is confident she can apply and not be recognized. And since she has time on her hands, revenge on her mind, and a talent for acting…

Because what better way to seek retribution—and redress—than from within the beautiful Mrs. Hannah Carter’s own home?

Except that it’s not just Claire who has secrets. Everyone in that house seems to have something to hide.

And now, there’s no way out.

From Goodreads

Review

The Housekeeper is a juicy, up close and personal revenge story set in Manhattan, NY. Our main character, Claire, once had a charmed life. She went to a good school, lived in a gorgeous house, had upper class friends, and her parents made sure she wanted for nothing. That all changed when Hannah came into their lives. After Hannah accuses Claire’s father of terrible depravity, the trials, media storm, and resulting devastation to Claire’s family destroys her world completely. Over the years Claire descends into the struggling underbelly of society. She’s a shadow of who she once was. Between the poverty, trauma, and depression Claire looks completely different now, but she still harbors an unrelenting resentment toward the woman who caused it all. When Claire chances upon Hannah in the city and sees her enjoying the finer things in life – a beautiful home, fun outings, and a loving family – Claire is stirred from her stagnant existence with new purpose; she will stealthily infiltrate Hannah’s life, and utterly destroy her.

Claire is an incredibly motivated and unstable main character. When we first meet her she’s lying to her flat mate, struggling to find a job, and subjecting herself to sexual relations for extra money. It’s clear she’s struggling mentally, socially, and economically. Seeing Hannah sets Claire off, and from that point on readers see a completely different side to her. As Claire inches closer to Hannah we learn more of their shared backstory, and why Claire is so passionate about bringing her version of justice down on Hannah. It’s up to the reader to decide at the time whether they believe Claire’s motives justified, or whose story they believe at all. Is Hannah telling the truth, or was she purely after the money windfall a public lawsuit would bring? All the while Claire’s maneuvering is an incredible study in just how easy it can be to manipulate people. She’s an excellent example of social engineering in the real world – contriving just the right amount of detail to gather intel, putting on just the perfect expression to appear sincere. Unfortunately, Claire’s plan early on still involves her offering up her body in the name of revenge, which reinforces her low self worth and indicates an imbalanced valuation of the blackmail material she hopes to gain. Nevertheless Claire is one of the most intriguing characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a long time, and she absolutely flourishes under Natalie Barelli’s pen.

The pacing in this story is a bit slow to start, building up backstory and tension to make you invested in the boiling action later on. As Claire executes her plan for revenge readers are caught in the story’s web, wondering whether it will pan out in her favor, or whether it’ll turn on her. This book is more a psychological thriller sub-genre – easy on the physical action until the end, and focused on the mental chess everyone is playing. Themes center around the ousting of secrets, justification of our actions, and the question of sanity.

This is an excellent story, unlike anything I’ve read in a while. I’d highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers or twisted revenge stories! Happy reading!📔

TW: stalking, alcoholism, molestation

Original background cover photo credit: Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Review: “The Housekeeper” by Natalie Barelli

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