The Neighbour is one creepy novel that even though it confused, and I’ll be honest frustrated me at first, kept me gripped so that I had to keep on reading until I was able to put all the pieces of the puzzle in their place.
The Lockwood family move into their new house 25 The Avenue in Essex in the woodland behind the house a body has been discovered, the fifth in recent times. Not the best omen for a new house I think we can all agree? Garrick and Olivia and their two children have moved into the house due to some difficulties of their own so they have no option but to stick it out through the media interest and local speculation. Garrick’s conviction that the murderer will soon be found soon seems to feel a bit optimistic to say the least.
The bodies themselves have been found with painted faces and the media have named the killer the dollmaker, something that the police are keen to discourage, especially as there is a toymaker living in the area. With everyone under suspicion and the killer close at hand the links between the victims has to be made in order to work out who it is.
I have to hand it to Fiona Cummins because she won me over. The initial total confusion I felt at the different time lines and multiple voices soon evened out into a more cohesive plot, but I did need to stick with it.
Fortunately for the reader, the police presence is led by DCI Clive Mackie, and the team includes the likeable detective, Wildeve Stanton. She is the one who I bonded with as she worked tirelessly hunting the murderer even though she is grieving after a very recent loss. For once the detective’s personal problems isn’t code for any flaky activity, Wildeve is a sensible woman not given to flights of fancy or bending the rules out of shape. With the DCI facing being pulled from the investigation the tension in the police joins that of the inhabitants of the Avenue.
The setting is very atmospheric, the story did give me the creeps which is fairly unusual for me – it takes a lot to scare me but the thought of Olivia living in amongst all of this suspicion not only about the murderer but within her own house too. With different secrets hiding behind all the doors within the Avenue it seems like everyone has something to hide, something to lose and lies to tell. This just served to make the book feel all the more claustrophobic.
I have to admire Fiona Cummins skill in both plotting such a complex thriller. That combined with the skilful writing made the reading of the book a fairly edgy experience.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Pan Macmillan for allowing me to read an ARC of The Neighbour which was published on 4 April 2019.