The Final Act of Juliette Willoughby

the intoxicating and darkly glamourous mystery from the bestselling authors of Reese Witherspoon bookclub pick, The Club

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Pub Date 20 Jun 2024 | Archive Date 19 Jun 2024

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'Intoxicating, enthralling, compelling' Harriet Tyce

‘Bold and ambitious and consuming from start to finish’ Louise Candlish

A stunning, intricately plotted and clever mystery’ Claire Douglas

‘Think The Secret History meets Saltburn’ Holly Watt


Some women can’t be erased from history . . .

A story of love and madness, of obsession and revenge.

Paris, 1938: Runaway heiress Juliette Willoughby perishes, with her married lover, in an accidental studio fire alongside her Surrealist masterpiece, Self-Portrait as Sphinx.

Cambridge, 1991: Two art history students stumble across proof something sinister was at play in Juliette's death, threatening to expose the long-buried secrets of the artist's aristocratic family.

Dubai, now: An art dealer is accused of the brutal murder of his oldest friend – the last surviving member of the Willoughby dynasty.

Three suspicious deaths over the course of a century.

Is the key to unlocking them all hidden in Juliette Willoughby’s lost painting?

From the author of The Club, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick, The Final Act of Juliette Willoughby is Ellery Lloyd's compulsive multiple - timeline mystery – a story of love and madness, of obsession and revenge.


‘A clever, richly imagined, first-class mystery. A story both thrilling and deeply layered, touching and fun. I loved it.’ Chris Whitaker

‘A whip smart page turner with twists and turns that'll keep a hold on you right up until the final, gripping denouement. A terrific, hands down, five star read.’ John Marrs

‘A big complex thriller about art, family secrets and dark academia and is hugely entertaining and fun. Fans of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair will love it.’ Mark Edwards

'Intoxicating, enthralling, compelling' Harriet Tyce

‘Bold and ambitious and consuming from start to finish’ Louise Candlish

A stunning, intricately plotted and clever mystery’ Claire Douglas

‘Think The...

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ISBN 9781035020805
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Featured Reviews

I have read both of Ellery Lloyd's previous released books The Club and People Like Me and absolutely loved it, putting them as one of my favourite author's and this book was no different as it had me gripped like the two previous novels.

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‘The Final Act Of Juliette Willoughby’ by Ellery Lloyd is an exhilarating, mysterious and layered tale about a lost painting, long buried secrets and obsession. Set across three distinct time periods and locations, we are whisked between Paris 1938, Cambridge 1991 and Dubai in the present day and visit glamorous locations including artists’ lodgings, surrealist exhibitions, academic libraries, country houses, sophisticated galleries and renowned auction halls.

In 1991, students Caroline and Patrick meet with their dissertation supervisor and their interest in surrealism leads to a discussion of the mythic ‘Self Portrait as a Sphinx’ by Juliet Willoughby, which was exhibited for one night only in 1938 and presumed to have perished in a tragic fire along with its painter and her famous artist beau. In the present, Caroline and Patrick are brokering a multi-million pound art deal until a suspicious death and a murder arrest. However, it’s in Juliette’s journal entries from 1938 that the real seeds of mystery are planted… While the world may have viewed her as an English MP’s mad daughter who absconded to Paris and fell in love, she was actually an artist with a terrible secret whose star shone brightly before blazing out and who refused to be erased from history.

This book has so many mysteries to unravel, multiple deaths to explain and an abundance of connections woven throughout. It was supremely satisfying and empowering when everything came together. The final discovery was gruesome and sad, but believable in its simplicity.

I adored Ellery Lloyd’s ‘People Like Her’ but didn’t really connect to the characters in ‘The Club’… I am thrilled to say that the stars of this novel are smart, interesting and motivated, with captivating pasts and hidden depths. I cared about Juliette’s truth and Patrick’s ordeal. I enjoyed the feminist message also.

Five stars and highly recommended!

I received an advance Digital Review Copy of this book from the publisher Pan MacMillan via NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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The death of artist Juliet Willoughby, who scandalously eloped with her married lover in the 1930s, reverberates through the decades in this gripping tale.

The official account of Juliet's death in a studio fire comes under question as, over half a century later, two art students in Cambridge discover that there may be more to the story. But what Caroline and Patrick discover may bring them into conflict with the secrets that the Willoughby family has carefully hidden over the years...

In the third timeline that appears in this story, set in contemporary Dubai, the last member of the Willoughby family dies under suspicious circumstances. It is Juliet's masterwork that may provide the clues to solving these multiple mysterious death cases. But will the true story ever come to light?

This is an interesting novel, set over three timelines and featuring multiple protagonists. The author does a good job of balancing the stories she is telling whilst maintaining an engaging storytelling process throughout.

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This is the third Ellery Lloyd book I've read and found them all enjoyable.

Like the others, this is a slow burn the first two thirds of the book telling the story and laying the crumbs for the ending. Set over 3 timelines, Paris 1938, Cambridge 1991 and Dubai present day with the painting  ‘Self Portrait as a Sphinx’ by Juliette Willoughby at the heart of the story.

Caroline and Patrick, Cambridge art students doing their dissertations on surrealism stumble upon clues that the painting might still exist and in their search they find family secrets, subterfuge and murder.

 A quick, entertaining read.

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It’s 1991 and Caroline Cooper and Patrick Lambert are studying the History of Art at Cambridge University. More than a little attracted to each other, they have several attempts at being together, but due to an unfortunate past that she can’t dismiss, Caroline always pulls out of any commitment. However, unbeknownst to each other they are both assigned Alice Long as their supervisor to advise them on their dissertations. From the first meeting they are encouraged to look further into the life of Juliette Willoughby, a Surrealist artist from the 1930s who died in a fire with her lover, the artist Oskar Erlich, in their apartment in Paris. Their works were also destroyed during the fire.

As the young couple delve into the records, discoveries are made.

This is my first book by this dual enterprise and I enjoyed it very much. Although a bit of a slow start, it is well written, with definite shades of The Goldfinch.

A good multi layered read, set over three timelines and told from various POV. Neatly tied up ending.

I would definitely recommend.

Thank you NetGalley and Pan Macmillan

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I loved this book so much - the glamorous locations, the Saltburnesque characters, the fascinating history of art detail. This book races along - and takes the reader with it. I learned a lot and so enjoyed it.

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4.5 rounded up

This complex and clever novel starts in Paris of 1937/8 with the tragic love affair between two surrealist artists, the heiress Juliette Willoughby and her married lover, Oskar Erlich. The pair perish in a studio fire along with their work, including Juliette’s “Self Portrait as a Sphinx”. Moving on to 1991 in Cambridge and two art history students, Caroline Cooper and Patrick Lambert who are about to undertake their final year dissertation. They are encouraged to focus on Surrealism especially to explore Juliette’s story via her aristocratic family’s ancient Egyptian collection known as The Willoughby Bequest. This leads Caroline to making several startling discoveries. In the present day, Caroline is a Professor of Modern Art at Cambridge University, an expert on surrealist female artists particularly Juliette. Patrick is an art dealer based in Dubai which is where the story begins and ends. Three timelines, nefarious deeds, is Juliette’s painting the key to understanding and unlocking more than one mystery?

Wow - I love this novel which is my favourite by this author duo by a country mile! It’s part mystery thriller, part art history and the world of art, part love affair and tragedy, there’s a domestic and family history element , a strong driving force of obsession and also examines how women are painted out of a significant art movement. Sounds busy? It’s actually woven together into one well integrated whole, making for compelling and riveting reading and I for one can barely lift my eyes from the pages. What has been created here is exactly the kind of story that would indeed capture people’s imagination in real life, although of course, being fiction there’s inevitably dramatic license but nothing I can’t wholeheartedly buy into.

The novel is fast paced, it has vivid, colourful and cinematic scenes starring many larger than life characters. It’s richly atmospheric with great locations (Paris, Cambridge and Dubai) and the tone varies from excitement to fear and/or anxiety and on more than one occasion a strong sense of paranoia. To say there are twists and turns doesn’t do it justice as there are multiple pull you up sharp moments if not jaw droppers. It’s a fascinating enigmatic puzzle. What is the riddle Juliette is trying to impart? How to interpret her clues? This takes the storyline into Egyptology - yet another terrific element!

Although I do guess part of it, it’s just great to prove myself right (!) and it certainly doesn’t spoil the exciting outcome. Fantastic!

Overall, an exhilarating, cracking, belter of a read and one I can highly recommend.
Great cover too!

With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Pan Macmillan for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.

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I LOVED they layout of this book with the jumping about of POV and timelines. It worked so well and left you wanting more. We were given little puzzle pieces in each chapter and they all came together to create the whole picture and it was flawless! The intricacies of the plot and character connections were all so good and so clever.
Overall, an amazing book! I highly recommend.

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Three novels in and husband and wife writing partnership Ellery Lloyd are carving out a clever niche for themselves - ingenious, well-written plots with thought-provoking, zeitgeisty themes ('lost' women in art history serving as a key one here) that never come at the expense of pacing or plot. This one - an art/murder mystery set over three timelines - is another winner from the pair. Loved it.

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This is Ellery Lloyd's best yet - I couldn't put it down and read it in one sitting. I loved the historical mystery and the art history threads, which I think can be tricky to pull off in fiction but were absolutely nailed here. 5 Stars!

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Absolute page-turner.

This felt a little different to Ellery Lloyd's other books, in a good way (though I love all the other EL books I've read too!)

A huge sweeping mystery that dates from 30s Paris to 90s Cambridge to present day Dubai. Intricately plotted and cleverly revealed. I was absolutely enthralled and I do love a dark academia read.

Highly recommended, thanks for the opportunity to read and review.

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This is easily my favourite Ellery Lloyd book so far.

There are so many layers to this book, yet it was very easy to follow the individual character's narratives and the three timelines.

Starting in 2023 with an unexpected arrest for murder at the unveiling of a supposed 'lost' painting, the reader is then thrust back to 1991 with two young art students writing their individual theses on two Surrealist artists and the intriguing mystery they uncover in their research. An uncovered journal also takes the story to one of these artists, Juliette Willoughby and her time in Paris in the 1930's when she runs away from her wealthy family to live with her artist lover.

Throw in a myriad of twists and turns including a family 'curse', missing people, unexplained deaths, secret societies, art exhibitions, mysterious artists, then add a touch of Egyptology and you will finally discover what the Final Act of Juliette Willoughby was....

I highly recommend this.

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Rating: 4.5/5

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books published under the Ellery Lloyd handle by the husband and wife writing team of Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos and this third offering is quite possibly the best so far.

Set in Paris, Cambridge and Dubai across three timeframes, "The Final Act of Juliette Willoughby" connects three suspicious deaths over the course of a century. A painting by the deceased artist, Juliette Willoughby, entitled "Self-Portrait as Sphinx" seems to hold the key to the mysterious deaths - but the picture is also a mystery in itself.

As with their previous two novels, the execution of the characterisation by this writing partnership is of high quality, but the duo have created something quite different in style and tone to their previous works. At times this is more akin to what may be deemed to be literary fiction, but please do not think that is merely a way of describing this as worthy, but tedious. Far from it - this is a compelling mystery drama that works on a variety of levels. There are historical aspects, mythology, romance, domestic drama and multiple mysteries wrapped up in an atmospheric, well-constructed and eloquently written storyline. I will certainly be back for book four from Ellery Lloyd.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for supplying an ARC in return for an honest review.

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I'm a huge fan of the books by Ellery Lloyd and this book once again proves why. An absolute auto buy author for me due to her style of writing and themes that she picks up. This book being no different and in fact being my top pick from her work so far.

This is both a thriller and a historical fiction while also being slotted in the romance genre. This is what makes the book different and extremely enjoyable. It's told in multiple perspectives and threads to the main plot. Absolutely enjoyed reading this as it makes it realistic while bringing the pack of twists and edge of the seat thrills. Definitely on my top reads for this year. Recommend for sure!

Thank you Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for this e-arc in exchange of my unbiased review.

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The Final Act of Juliette Willoughby is described as a psychological thriller. This and the use of my family name in the title drew me to this book.

I was not disappointed.

The tension in this book is recurring, not constant but not far off.
The settings are all far from where the ordinary reader would find themselves.

The characters are good, interesting and sometimes crazy.

There are so many twists and turns reading the book is like trying to find the way out of a maze.

So did it work.

Definitely. A brilliant book from start to finish. I hope to see more books of this genre from this partnership.

Many thanks to the authors for many hours of tension and pleasure.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Wow, what a tangled web of deciet over generations. Far reaching consequences that only untangle at the very end.
Caroline and Patrick meet as art history students at Cambridge. A love affair with far reaching consequences not just for themselves but for their social circles.
Writing dissertations on 1930s surrealism artists. Leads to unthinkable truths becoming knowledge.
A brilliant book

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I really enjoyed this book! I look forward to reading other books by this author. There were so many twists in this book I didn’t see coming. But then again I rarely can figure books out. I would definitely recommend this book!

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