Sunday, June 16, 2019

Those People

Those People by Louise Candlish
Penguin Random House: 6/11/19
eBook review copy; 368 pages
ISBN-13: 9780451489142

Those People by Louise Candlish is a recommended domestic thriller.

In Lowland Way the houses are all perfectly maintained and the neighbors all get along - until Darren and Jodie move into the house he inherited. They arrive at the house on the corner lot and immediately begin an unsightly renovation project leaving piles of debris everywhere. Darren is undertaken all the work himself, in between working on the overabundance of vehicles he brought with him to start an illegal used car business from his home. If matters could be even worse, along with all the construction noise they blast heavy metal music late into the night. The stress becomes overwhelming to the couple with an infant who live next door to the noise, and to the older woman who begins to lose her excellent rating, customers, and her source of income at the bed and breakfast she runs out of her home. Adding to the fracas is the truculent, hostile attitude Darren seemingly exhibits to anyone who questions his choices.

The beginning of the story is told through flashbacks, and from different character's point-of view, beginning eight weeks previously and leading up to the day an unexpected death occurs. There are police interviews with various neighbors about the death which are included between chapters. This is a slow burner of a novel as the various characters are introduced and the conflict between the neighbors is developed slowly and hidden resentments come to light.  Since we know right from the start that an unexpected death has happened, the beginning of the novel consists of looking for clues as we meet all the neighbors and all of the neighbors are discussing various actions to get rid of Darren.

None of the characters are particularity likeable and not all of them are as well developed as others. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that many of the good neighbors aren't quite as perfect as they think and that there were underlying problems in many of the relationships before Darren moved in and stirred things up. Many readers who has experienced having challenging neighbors, will feel some sympathy for the neighbors who want to keep Lowland Way looking like an ideal neighborhood, have everyone voluntarily follow their rules, and keep their property values high.
The writing is good, although I found the plot a little too slow moving and certain plot elements required setting disbelief aside. The narrative does draw on a common theme that many people can relate to - the "bad" neighbors, "those people," who are disrupting the normal flow of life on the street. Alternating the points-of-view leading up to death worked well, but after the death some of the incentive to keep reading is lost. The final denouement was a surprise, but the lead up to it could have been tightened up a bit to keep the plot moving along at a little brisker pace. This is a solid summer read.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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