THE NEIGHBOUR - by Fiona Cummins

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Published: April 2019 - Pan Macmillan. 
Genres: Adult / contemporary / thriller.  
Pages: 416. 
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mild sexual innuendos / violence / occasional, disturbing gory descriptions. 
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read & reviewed this copy. All thoughts are my own.

FOR SALE: A lovely family home with good-sized garden and treehouse occupying a plot close to woodland. Perfect for kids, fitness enthusiasts, dog walkers . . . And, it seems, the perfect hunting ground for a serial killer.

On a hot July day, Garrick and Olivia Lockwood and their two children move into 25 The Avenue looking for a fresh start. They arrive in the midst of a media frenzy: they’d heard about the local murders in the press, but Garrick was certain the killer would be caught and it would all be over in no time. Besides, they’d got the house at a steal and he was convinced he could flip it for a fortune. The neighbours seemed to be the very picture of community spirit. But everyone has secrets, and the residents in The Avenue are no exception.

After six months on the case with no real leads, the most recent murder has turned DC Wildeve Stanton’s life upside down, and now she has her own motive for hunting down the killer – quickly.

The stunning writing struck me first. I'm always overjoyed to find a beautifully written thriller because I feel like thrillers are generally all plot and action, and the writing gets the short straw. But in this book, the language is colourful, vivid, and extremely mnemonic. The scenes are packed with thought-provoking details. You're consumed by this intoxicating, claustrophobic setting and the unsettlingly palpable manner by which it's brought to life.

Another thing I respect about this thriller is how original it is. I honestly have not read a story like this before, and as you read you get the impression that the author is firmly on her own path. It's different. It breaks into its own.

Damage. When you say it aloud, there’s a melody to it, a teasing intro that finishes on a hard, aggressive note. We all damage others. A thoughtless word. A deliberate exclusion. A knife in the back. But you, of all people, understand that.

The plot is pretty slow, but the short chapters and twisty, shocking arcs more than make up for the pacing. By slow I don’t mean boring, but the story does take its time. There is a ton of build-up. I also love how the author keeps throwing doubt after doubt at her characters, literally making you second guess everyone and everything, and how every chapter is so thickly laden with intrigue. I did not see the ending coming. The twists are superb.

The atmosphere and setting are a huge part of this novel. From the very first paragraph, I had chills because of the eerie atmosphere. Everything is so incredibly creepy and unsettling, and not only does this keep you reading, but it also brings the setting to life. I felt deeply entrenched in this world and its secrets. It’s bewildering in the best, most intense, way.

What I love about this cast of characters is how the author makes you doubt everyone. She throws suspicion on every single person at different points in the plot, and I love how I was constantly second guessing everyone and overanalysing their actions. You never know who can be trusted - it’s fantastic.

The cast is also big. I didn’t find that confusing, though, which I’m grateful for. You soon get to grips with everyone and the roles they play. One disappointment I did have, however, is the characters’ personalities. I wish they’d all been fleshed out some more; ironically, the villain is the strongest, most fully realised person in the story. Otherwise, although they’re not flat, the rest of the cast isn't three-dimensional. They don’t leap off the page. This is something that could be stronger.

The Neighbour is a unique and claustrophobic thriller, every page chilling its reader to the bone and simmering with secrets.   

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