Book Review

The Ancestor

The Ancestor

  • Author: Danielle Trussoni
  • Genre: Horror
  • Publication Date: April 7, 2020
  • Publisher: HarperAudio

CONTENT WARNING: miscarriage, suicide, mention of death of a parent, mention of cancer, mention of harm to animals (off-page), mention of rape, murder

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It feels like a fairy tale when Alberta ”Bert” Monte receives a letter addressed to “Countess Alberta Montebianco” at her Hudson Valley, New York, home that claims she’s inherited a noble title, money, and a castle in Italy. While Bert is more than a little skeptical, the mystery of her aristocratic family’s past, and the chance to escape her stressful life for a luxury holiday in Italy, is too good to pass up.

At first, her inheritance seems like a dream come true: a champagne-drenched trip on a private jet to Turin, Italy; lawyers with lists of artwork and jewels bequeathed to Bert; a helicopter ride to an ancestral castle nestled in the Italian Alps below Mont Blanc; a portrait gallery of ancestors Bert never knew existed; and a cellar of expensive vintage wine for Bert to drink.

But her ancestry has a dark side, and Bert soon learns that her family history is particularly complicated. As Bert begins to unravel the Montebianco secrets, she begins to realize her true inheritance lies not in a legacy of ancestral treasures, but in her very genes.

I’ve had my eye on this one for a while, and I’m trying to work my way through books that I haven’t read but want to. However, I never realized that this was in the horror category, but … I guess it fits perfectly into spooky season reading! 

I listened to the audiobook, and Heather Masters was an awesome narrator. She successfully mastered several different accents for this story, which amazed me, and managed to accurately portray the full breadth of Bert’s emotions throughout the story.

The story starts out with Bert dealing with an amicable separation from her husband after a series of miscarriages and the emotional toll that has taken on the two of them. However, she gets a letter in the mail that sounds like a dream come true — an inheritance and a noble title … in Italy. What could possibly go wrong, right?

Well, clearly things aren’t going to go right for this trip. Bert finds out that her new title and role has some amazing perks, but it also comes with some dark secrets within the family. The castle is fairly inaccessible in the winter, which is when she gets dropped off by helicopter with a promise to get her in a week. However, her arrival isn’t exactly what she was expecting, and neither is the castle or it’s occupants. As she starts digging up the secrets, she finds out way more than she expected.

The setting is creepy, gothic, and atmospheric. I was on edge the whole time I was reading, and couldn’t put it down. There were some really surprising twists that I wasn’t expecting, and while it could have easily made the story into a letdown, instead I found myself even more intriguing. It had me questioning human nature and family legacies, genetic inheritances, and what you’d be willing to do for family. 

Each of the characters felt so realistic, and as wild as the plot became, it still managed to feel fairly realistic. This is one of those stories that will stay with me for a long time and take up space in my thoughts. It’s worth the read, and it absolutely fit the October vibe. 

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