After reading and loving The Wicked Girls I pre-ordered my copy of The Killer Next Door some time ago…
The residents in No. 23 Northbourne, South London, are a mixed bunch of the forgotten and ignored before Collette turns up, she is the one resident that someone is looking for. Unfortunately for Collette her past keeps catching up with her, someone wants her silenced and has been relentlessly tracking her for three years.
The cloying atmosphere of London in a heatwave is the scene brilliantly captured as the repulsive, obese Landlord Roy Preece is persuaded to let out a room still partially full of the previous owner’s possessions to Collette. Meanwhile the others in the house each have their own secrets, the underage runaway, Cher, the kind elderly spinster Vesta, a political asylum seeker Houssein, the bore Thomas and the broken music teacher. The characters are wonderfully drawn, particularly Vesta and Cher as they battle to keep the events in No. 23 away from the prying eyes of the neighbourhood.
This book has the requisite serial killer, with an original aim but it also has multiple murderers and for me this was where I found I lost belief in the story. The dead bodies are mounting, the stench is thickening and the secrets are spewing out, but it stretched credibility to breaking point. For me there is a limit to how much horror one set of people can be reasonably expected to encounter. No car chases in this book but escapes on foot, on buses and trains and all manner of bloody encounters serve to keep the residents on their toes!
Apart from the plot and the characters there is some brilliant observations in this book from an author who clearly has an eye for detail ‘The social worker sits, sensible hair and sensible shoes and an air of New Labour sanctimony pouring off her, in the chair next to the girl.’ We never meet the family who live next door but their uniform of cardigans slung around their shoulders and their voices during a party tell us all we need to know. As the residents of No. 23 pull together they seem further than ever away from the aspirations of the neighbours.
So this book is a sum of its parts, many of them superb but for me it is ultimately the story that matters to me and this for me tried to cram to many unlikely events for me to continue believing in it.
The Killer Next Door Amazon UK