Book Review: The Lady Upstairs

Halley Sutton

Rating: 3 out of 5.

published: 17th November 2020
spoilers? tried to be vague


A modern-day noir featuring a twisty cat-and-mouse chase, this dark debut thriller tells the story of a a woman who makes a living taking down terrible men…then finds herself in over her head and with blood on her hands. The only way out? Pull off one final con.

Jo’s job is blackmailing the most lecherous men in Los Angeles–handsy Hollywood producers, adulterous actors, corrupt cops. Sure, she likes the money she’s making, which comes in handy for the debt she is paying off, but it’s also a chance to take back power for the women of the city. Eager to prove herself to her coworker Lou and their enigmatic boss, known only as the Lady Upstairs, Jo takes on bigger and riskier jobs.

When one of her targets is murdered, both the Lady Upstairs and the LAPD have Jo in their sights. Desperate to escape the consequences of her failed job, she decides to take on just one more sting–bringing down a rising political star. It’s her biggest con yet–and she will do it behind the Lady’s back, freeing both herself and Lou. But Jo soon learns that Lou and the Lady have secrets of their own, and that no woman is safe when there is a life-changing payout on the line.

A delicious debut thriller crackling with wit and an unforgettable feminist voice, The Lady Upstairs is a chilling and endlessly surprising take on female revenge.

Behind me, the ocean kept its own counsel because nature is far wiser than any of us and who knows what sleeps under its waters. I bet you anything the ocean itself couldn’t even tell you.

Galley provided by publisher

CWs: death, murder, alcohol and drug abuse

The Lady Upstairs is, in all honesty, a difficult one for me to review. I liked it, definitely, but I wasn’t so engrossed by it that I couldn’t put it down. It was a good thriller, but I saw too many of the twists coming and, ultimately, it didn’t have the tension to make it a great thriller for me.

The plot follows Jo, who is part of a group of people making a living from blackmailing folks in Hollywood. Jo is in debt to the group’s leader, the Lady Upstairs, after being almost caught way back when she started, but the job she is currently working promises to be the last one to pay off that debt. Only, everything goes wrong and Jo finds herself trapped between the Lady Upstairs and the police.

First things first, the book has a very engrossing writing style and I found myself halfway through the whole thing before I knew it. It was easy to root for Jo and Lou throughout. So that wasn’t at all a problem. I enjoyed reading it for this exact reason. Add onto that some great characters and I figured I would love it.

But I think what caught me here was that there was a slight lack of tension, where there needed to be. It’s a thriller, right? But it didn’t thrill me. There was never a point where I gasped out loud at any plot twists, I never really felt like there was a moment where I genuinely had no clue what would happen next. And I don’t know if this is a product of having read too many mysteries or thrillers, that I know the genre conventions now and everything becomes a little samey, but that was my issue here.

This is not to say it’s not a good book, still, or it’s not a book that someone who may have read fewer thrillers might enjoy more. In fact, if you’re looking to get into reading more thrillers, I would definitely suggest this one. It’s just that, whether as a result of my having read too many or because it was genuinely predictable, I wasn’t that surprised by anything in this one. Even when it was suggested that the Lady Upstairs might dispose of Jo — and by dispose you know what I mean — I didn’t feel any tension.

Which, ultimately, is what let me down in this one.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Lady Upstairs

  1. I thought this was sadly forgettable, although I loved the premise! I totally see the issues you talked about: the tension was just not there and it was so predictable. But it’s nice to read a noir F/F, honestly it’s a subgenre I’d love to see more of!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. sapphic thrillers are great! except somehow i’ve never quite read one that i’ve truly loved… have you read the better liar by tanen jones? bc that was one i felt was properly tense and the plot twist did surprise me


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