First Monday Crime Review – The Case of the Reincarnated Client by @tarquinhall @1stMondayCrime @severnhouse #thecaseofthereincarnatedclient

We’re now only a matter of days away from our First Monday Crime Christmas Spectacular! We have a great panel lined up for you with Shamini Flint, Sam Blake, Simon Brett and Tarquin Hall. Jake Kerridge will be moderating. We also have for your delectation, Criminal Mastermind with Angela Clarke and Claire McGowan. Who will win the coveted title? You’ll have to come along to find out! And there’s wine kindly provided by Severn House and cookies from yours truly. You can reserve your seat here.

I’ve had the chance to read and review the new novel from Tarquin Hall called The Case of the Reincarnated Client. Thank you to Natasha at Severn House for sending me a copy. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

A client claiming she was murdered in a past life is a novel dilemma even for Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator. When a young woman comes forward claiming to be the reincarnation of Riya Kaur, a wife and mother who vanished during the bloody 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Puri is dismissive. He’s busy enough dealing with an irate matrimonial client whose daughter is complaining about her groom’s thunderous snoring. Puri’s indomitable Mummy-ji however is adamant the client is genuine. How else could she so accurately describe under hypnosis Riya Kaur’s life and final hours? Driven by a sense of duty – the original case was his late father’s – Puri manages to acquire the police file only to find that someone powerful has orchestrated a cover-up. Forced into an alliance with his mother that tests his beliefs and high blood pressure as never before, it’s only by delving into the past the help of his reincarnated client that Puri can hope to unlock the truth.

The Case of the Reincarnated Client

My Review

The main challenge in all murder investigations is to find the murderer and prove behind doubt that that particular person is responsible. Of course, only the murderer and the victim know exactly what occurred. Through forensics the victim is able to give certain information but what if he or she could actually tell the police what had happened? That’s the question for Vish Puri, private detective. Is reincarnation the answer?

This is the fifth book in Tarquin Hall’s successful Vish Puri series. As such, it’s not that easy to read as a standalone as the characters are now very established. So it took me a while to settle into it especially as Puri has nicknames for all his workers. Some are more obvious than others, for example, Handbrake is his driver. Puri is also a very busy man, juggling quite a few cases at a time. The reincarnation storyline is the main plot but there are also other issues for him to deal with including money laundering and a snoring bridegroom. I have to say that the latter was one of my favourite parts of the book and gave some light relief to the more serious crimes.

Riya Kaur’s mysterious disappearance in 1984 during the anti-Sikh riots is a case well-known to Puri. His father had been the original police detective investigating the missing woman which he’d been unable to solve. A young woman claiming to be the reincarnation of Riya might be able to provide the answers. Puri is sceptical but his Mummy-ji is convinced. The anti-Sikh riots were a dark part of modern India’s history. I’d forgotten about them until I read this. Hall has managed to capture the fear and horror that the Sikh community must have felt. I don’t want to give too much away but this plotline is particularly moving.

Apart from the snoring bridegroom, my other favourite part was Mummy-ji. She tests Puri with her stubbornness, her old mobile phone that’s never switched on (I know that one!) and her ability to take forty winks at the wrong time. I loved her as a character and she proved herself to be as good a detective as her son. I just hope that Puri’s wife, Rumpi, also gets a chance to take part in her husband’s business. She has the patience of a saint as she cooks amazing food for her husband who then doesn’t come home to eat.

If you’re after a lighter crime read with an international flavour then it’s worth looking at the Vish Puri series. But I do think it might be better to start at the beginning.

To find out more about Tarquin Hall and buy his Vish Puri series click here. Or come and buy on the night and get your copy signed.

 

The Author

Tarquin Hall

Tarquin Hall is a British author and journalist who has previously lived in the USA, Pakistan, India, Kenya and Turkey. He now divides his time between the UK and India, and is married to BBC reporter and presenter Anu Anand. He is the author of four previous Vish Puri mysteries.

 

Blog Tour – What She Saw Last Night by M.J. Cross @MasonCrossBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n @orion_crime #whatshesawlastnight

WSSLN Blog Asset

I’m delighted to be taking part in the tour for What She Saw Last Night by M.J. Cross. Although the author has written other books as Mason Cross, this is the first time I’ve read any of his novels. Thank you to Tracy Fenton and Orion Books for inviting me to take part. Before my review, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

A secret that could kill her.

A truth no one believes…

Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten-hour journey through the night.

In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.

Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin…  but there’s no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.

The police don’t believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.

But deep down, she knows that isn’t the truth.

What She Saw Last Night

My Review

For anyone who shares the delight of South Western Railways then you’ll know there’s a 27 day strike in December. But it’s OK as there are two books out this month about train journeys and once you’ve read them, you’ll never want to take a train again! I reviewed Violet by SJI Holliday last month and learnt about the pitfalls of travelling on trains abroad. M.J. Cross has gone one step further and has brought the horror to the UK.

Jenny Bowen has a lot on her plate. Her soon to be ex-husband is hassling her to sign the divorce papers and she has her late father’s estate in Scotland to sort out. All she wants to do is get to her cabin on the sleeper train to Fort William and chill. But just like on an airplane where there’s always one passenger struggling to get their luggage into the overhead locker, there’s a woman with a large suitcase blocking the corridor. Jenny notices a soft toy has been dropped and returns it to the woman. She sees a girl in the cabin and guesses it belongs to her. Early next morning, Jenny finds the woman dead and the girl missing. There’s no record of the girl as a passenger and she can’t be found on CCTV either. The police don’t believe her, apart from one – Sergeant Mike Fletcher. He and Jenny set out to find what’s happened to the missing girl.

Wow. Jenny Bowen is one tough cookie. She’s incredibly resourceful as I certainly wouldn’t know where to look first for a missing child. She has great tenacity as despite everything that happens (and a LOT happens), she never gives up. This is a fantastic thriller told by three people – Jenny, Mike and Klenmore. That last name tells you everything you need to know – it’s not the name of a good person. I don’t want to give too much away but this is an elaborate cat and mouse novel. I would say picture Tom and Jerry but this isn’t cartoon violence. It’s fair to say Jenny and Mike are in real danger. Having said that, there’s nothing gratuitous in the story. M.J. Cross has cleverly drawn enough of a picture for our minds to do the rest.

Considering there’s only one plotline, there’s a lot of depth to this book. You can tell it’s been well-researched and little details are observed. Short chapters and multiple viewpoints keep the pace moving and there’s no lag in the story.

I really enjoyed this book and there were times towards the end when I had to take little breaks because the tension was so great. I’m fairly certain this is a standalone novel but Jenny Bowen is such a great character I could easily see her in her own series as a private investigator. She’s definitely developed the right sort of skills. As I wrote earlier this was my first M.J. Cross read – it won’t be my last.

To buy What She Saw Last Night click here.

 

The Author

Mason Cross

M.J. Cross was born in Glasgow in 1979. He studied English at the University of Stirling and currently works in the voluntary sector. He has written a number of short stories, including A Living, which was shortlisted for the Quick Reads ‘Get Britain Reading’ Award. He lives in Glasgow with his wife and three children.

 

 

Blog Tour – One Christmas Night by Hayley Webster @HayleyThough @TrapezeBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #OneChristmasNight

OCN blog tour

IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!! Well, almost. In a month’s time it will be Christmas Eve, the day that One Christmas Night is set. Thank you to Trapeze and Tracy Fenton for inviting me to take part in the tour. Before my review, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

Nine lives. One street. And a secret behind every door.

Christmas is ruined on Newbury Street, Norwich.

Presents have been going missing from resident’s homes. There are rumours going around that it’s one of their own who’s been stealing from the neighbours. Festive spirit is being replaced with suspicion and the inhabitants of Newbury Street don’t know who to trust. The police presence isn’t helping matters, especially when they all have something to hide.

But Christmas is a time for miracles… and if they open themselves up to hope and look out for each other, they might discover the biggest miracle of all.

One Christmas Night

My Review

Newbury Street has had more than its fair share of crime in the run up to Christmas. A lot of the houses have been targeted by a burglar. A reverse Santa Claus who’s stealing all the presents. In the most recent burglary, which starts the book, even the food is taken including the gingerbread people made by the children from the house. This is a callous thief whose aim isn’t just to rob but to disturb the victims. To remind them that their homes and lives have been violated. This makes for a very vulnerable neighbourhood. And we hear from eight of the residents – Joanie Blake, Tash Blake, Wendy Finch, Sue Winters, Cynthia Ellis, Irma Wozniak, Craig Mullany and Frank Blake as well as the investigating officer, DC Lucy Crane. Robbed of their safety, it’s only a matter of time before secrets spill out.

Although we have the mystery of the thefts, the real story lies with the nine people mentioned above. Hayley Webster has made each voice unique. She has incredible observational skills and her attention to detail is second to none. I’m not necessarily talking about physical details but emotional ones. Technically I’m not allowed to quote from a proof but there are a few lines that spoke to me so clearly that I had to stop reading. Joanie Blake’s mother, Ally, died earlier in the year. Joanie, a young mother herself, is facing her first Christmas without Ally. She and her sister, Tash, are struggling and are arguing over small things.

‘They’d already had one argument today, about the turkey of all things. Mum might have laughed about that. That’s the thing when someone dies. You can only imagine what they’d say or do in all the situations they are no longer here for, but, really, that’s the imaginary them you’ve created. It’s not really them. Everybody who loved them is imagining a different person. Much like when they were alive.’

I know how true that is and often we imagine that person’s response to fit our own purpose. Joanie isn’t the only one facing bereavement at Christmas. Wendy Finch has just lost her husband. Wendy’s one of my favourite characters (Cynthia Ellis is the other – more of her later) and her grief is so raw. The passages for this character are achingly and hauntingly beautiful. Wendy remembers Christmases past (Babycham glasses with the deer on) and has to summon up the courage to face the predicament she finds herself in now. Thanks to Joanie’s kindness in inviting her to stay, she’s able to do that.

Cynthia Ellis has it all. Doesn’t she? A lovely house, a successful husband and plenty of money. So why is she at home all the time? Why isn’t she at the fundraiser at the pub, raising money for the burglary victims, especially as she’s one of them? But Cynthia has been robbed every day for most of her life. Bit by bit, her ‘self’ has been reduced in size until she’s just a husk, unable to voice her own thoughts or opinions. She has been completely shaped by her husband. Hayley Webster has handled abuse and coercion in a very sensitive way. It’s a thing of beauty when Cynthia finally emerges from the cocoon John has kept her in, always telling her to stay home where it’s safer.

I became so wrapped up in these people’s lives that I almost forgot about the thief. There is an unveiling at the end bringing relief to some but anguish to others. I took my time reading One Christmas Night, absorbing the stories of the neighbourhood until I felt as though I lived there. This is a book crying out to be made as a TV Christmas Special so that everyone can share in the lives of the residents of Newbury Street, Norwich. A stunning book. And an absolute contender for my top ten reads of 2019.

To buy One Christmas Night click here.

 

The Author

Hayley Webster

Hayley Webster is a writer and teacher who grew up in Newbury, Berkshire. Her first novel, Jar Baby, was published by Dexter Haven in 2012 and, as Hayley Scott, three books in her Teacup House series for emerging readers were published by Usborne in 2018. She has written for Grazia, The Observer Magazine, and did a sold-out event at Edinburgh festival in 2018. She’s a mentor on the 2019 National Writers Centre Escalator scheme and she lives in Norfolk with her daughter.

The Lady Thrillers at West Barnes Library with @emmacurtisbooks @AmandaRauthor @MertonLibraries #WestBarnesLibrary #theladythrillers

It was very cold last night but there was a warm welcome for Emma Curtis and Amanda Robson at West Barnes Library. Our ‘Lady Thrillers’ came to talk about their latest books – The Night You Left (Emma) and Envy (Amanda). Both are psychological thrillers and we started off looking at the genre.

Both authors felt that psychological thrillers are more domestic and about relationships. The culprit is more likely to be someone the protagonist knows. I asked about unreliable narrators. Emma thought that everyone is unreliable. We all have our own version of events. Amanda likes creating an unreliable narrator. She loves putting in the little lies (or big ones).

Emma and Amanda told us more about their own books. Emma had her blurb for The Night You Left printed out. Can I remember it? No but hopefully I can give you the gist! In the present day storyline, Grace and Nick have been together for a few years when he proposes. Grace accepts. The next day Nick disappears. In the past, Nick is a teenage boy who goes away with his family and two other families. The holiday is difficult and fraught and ends in tragedy. Amanda’s book, Envy, is about Faye, a small-time model who is loved by three people – her husband and two stalkers! Faye knows that her husband’s friend, Jonah, likes her but she’s about to find out how infutated he is with her. But she knows nothing about Erica, the woman who watches her from behind the curtain of her flat.

I asked Emma and Amanda about when they started writing. They both had the same situation – husbands very busy at work and children almost grown-up and leaving home. There was almost a panicky thought of ‘What do I do next?’ Both came to the conclusion it was time to do something for themselves and writing was the answer. As a result, they were published but it took a long time before they found agents and publishers. [I didn’t say this at the time but I found their experience so encouraging – it’s spurring me to keep going.]

 

Although the names on the covers of the books say Emma Curtis and Amanda Robson, these are actually pen names. Emma originally had one book published under her real name but it didn’t do as well as expected. She was contracted to write two books so her editor suggested a change of name and Emma Curtis was born. Amanda’s publisher was concerned that her surname – Gillis – could be difficult to spell so Amanda went with Robson instead. She also changed her first name and became Amanda Robson. Having a different name has been useful. There are some raunchy scenes in her books and a name change has spared her sons some blushes!

 

 

Psychological thrillers are very twisty. I asked Emma and Amanda if they do a lot of planning. Emma has an outline that she sticks to. She doesn’t have a detailed chapter plan but does know where she’s going. With multiple viewpoints and two timelines, The Night You Left, was particularly tricky. Keeping track of dates was particularly important. Amanda also does a lot of planning and has cards for each chapter. She also has multiple viewpoints.

I asked about setting as Envy is clearly set in Twickenham but the location for The Night You Left is more vague. Amanda likes to have a clear setting. Her first book Obsession was based on Twickenham but she gave it a different name. As the book was about marriages and affairs and had a lot of sex in it, she thought it better to keep the place fictional. Her second, Guilt, is set in Bristol. The inside of Faye’s house in Envy is loosely based on Amanda’s own and one friend recognised it when reading. Emma prefers to keep her location vague. I worked out it was SW London and near a common but there are quite a few in that area. Keeping it unclear means she avoids someone recognising a particular place or house or person!

One of the questions from the audience was about research. Emma does a lot for her novels and for her latest she’s signed up to do a counselling course – it could be a whole new career as well. Amanda’s current manuscript has a lot of Forensics in it. Although she has a Science background, she’s had to get a lot of help from experts in the field.

The evening came to an end all too soon. I’d like to thank Emma Curtis and Amanda Robson for coming and to the Friends of West Barnes Library for hosting the event.

We’re having a break now over Christmas and New Year and will be back on Monday 27th January for a special 3 for 2 offer – Barbara Nadel, Derek Farell and Valentina Giambanco will be coming to tell us about their latest novels.

 

First Monday Crime – November 2019 with Alex North @north_writer, Abir Mukherjee @radiomukers, @louise_candlish, @VictoriaSelman and Sophie Goodfellow @sophieglorita @1stMondayCrime #TheWhisperMan #DeathInTheEast #ThosePeople #SnakesAndLadders

The hour has gone back. There are misty mornings. And it’s cold. November is here. But we had plenty to keep us warm and entertained at First Monday Crime this week. Delighting us with some extraordinary tales were Alex North, Louise Candlish, Victoria Selman and Abir Mukherjee. Our very own Sophie Goodfellow was moderating (and she did a marvellous job).

As per usual, Sophie started with those all-important books.

Victoria Selman’s new book is called Snakes and Ladders and is the third book in the Ziba MacKenzie series. Victoria described it as Psycho meets Silence of the Lambs. Ziba is a profiler and she starts off in Quantico, the FBI headquarters. A detective from Scotland Yard comes to find her. There’s a serial killer on the loose in London and the Met need Ziba’s help. But the only way she can do this is to talk to Dr Vernon Sage, another serial killer, who Ziba put in prison.

Those People by Louise Candlish is about bad neighbours. It’s set in an up-and-coming area and the neighbours appear to have the perfect road. They even have Play Out Sunday where the cars are moved and the road is closed to traffic, allowing the children to play safely outside. There’s a cast of characters led by Ralph and Naomi Morgan. The story begins when Ralph notices an historic wall being knocked down by the new owners of number one Lowland Drive. It’s a cautionary tale of how not to deal with difficult neighbours i.e. don’t plot to murder them! The book could also be viewed as a parable of our current divided times but that wasn’t Louise’s intention.

Alex North’s debut novel, The Whisper Man, is about a bereaved father and son who move to a new village to start their lives again. Unfortunately they find themselves in the way of a serial killer who targets children.

Death in the East is the fourth novel by Abir Mukherjee. Captain Sam Wyndham has finally accepted his addiction to opium and goes to an ashram for rehab. The story has two timelines linking Wyndham’s past as a young constable in 1905 and his current life in 1922. The book started off as a tribute to Agatha Christie with a locked-in scenario but then became a response to our divided world. There were many Jewish immigrants in 1905 in the East End who faced prejudice. Although there are still issues, Jews are generally integrated into British society. Abir hopes the same for Muslims now. So Death in the East is a message of hope – with dead bodies.

FM Nov 19.1

Sophie wanted to delve a bit deeper into the books. Starting with Abir she asked why he wanted to explore Sam’s past.

The first book actually started in 1905 with Sam as a young police officer. Abir lived in the East End of London for fifteen years and wanted to reflect it in his books. He suffered racism but not badly as he’s middle class. Growing up in Glasgow, he felt he had more opportunities than white working class people. He believes that we’re generally a tolerant nation and that we shouldn’t forget that. In a sense, Sam is a modern man in a historical setting trying to explain things.

Ziba MacKenzie is a British Iranian profiler. Where did she come from?

Originally, Victoria’s main character was going to be male but was told it would be better to write as a woman. Victoria is fascinated by such programmes as Criminal Minds and Mindhunter and she was particularly inspired by the book behind that latter programme. Monsters are made not born and maybe with support they could be changed. Victoria talked about a woman who was heading down that path but was turned around. Who knows what any of us are capable of?

Looking at The Whisper Man, Sophie asked if there are supernatural elements to the book?

Well, there’s definitely a spooky atmosphere. Jake’s imaginary friends seem to know more than they should! Alex studied Philosophy at university and regularly used to debate with Jehovah’s Witnesses on the doorstep. He believes that truth isn’t the only virtue and not necessarily a bad thing. As long as you’re not bothering anyone else you can believe what you like. So he’s happy for readers to interpret The Whisper Man however they want. For him it’s essentially a thriller about fathers and sons. The idea for the imaginary friends came from his own son. They moved to a new house several years ago and Alex heard his son talking to someone. When asked, his son said he’d been playing with the ‘boy in the floor’. A few months later Alex’s mother-in-law died and his son said that a woman was coming into his room at night to hug him and he wasn’t happy about it. Alex suggested to his son that he tell the woman to stop coming. He did and she stopped. Was it a ghost or a manifestation of grief?

At this point, I have to tell you one of the highlights of the evening! As things were definitely taking a spooky turn, Abir told us the weirdest ghost story ever – the haunted red folder! This red folder belonged to his father. Well, sort of. His father had borrowed it from a colleague at work on a Friday. ‘But you must bring it back on Monday. It’s very important,’ said the colleague. Abir’s father worked away from home so was driving back the next day. He stopped off at Killington Lake services on the M6. He went for a walk and saw his colleague coming towards him but he appeared to ignore Abir’s dad. Later, he found out that his colleague had died at the time he saw him at Killington Lake. ‘He was coming to get the folder. It must be very important,’ was Abir’s father’s response. They weren’t allowed to get rid of the haunted red folder until after Abir’s father’s death.

Moving on to property noir!

Before Brexit, the main topic of conversation was about property and Louise Candlish wanted to explore this obsession and criticise it in an entertaining way – let’s not waste our lives away on Right Move.  People are more important. Louise’s previous book, Our House, dealt with property fraud, a crime she hadn’t read about before. When she did the research for that, it brought up a lot about neighbourhood feuds. One of the more unusual disagreements she found was about bees. Nothing to do with being stung. One neighbour would release the bees out of the hive for exercise and the swarm always take the same route – over the next door neighbour’s car where they would defecate. There was genuine shock in the room – bees wee and poo? Oh yes, they most definitely do as my photo below demonstrates. This is what happens when you have white sofas in a conservatory. I’m forever cleaning this off! Imagine that multiplied all over your car on a daily basis!

FM Nov19.2

 

Moving on again, this time to Agatha Christie. Has she been an influence?

Alex confessed that he hasn’t read any Agatha Christie novels. But he has watched the TV programmes and recognises that she’s set the template for the genre.

The locked room scenario in Death in the East is Abir’s tribute to Agatha Christie. He had problems getting it to work though and it’s only when Wyndham’s sidekick, Sergeant Banerjee turns up in Indian dress rather than his formal work clothes that things fell into place.

There’s a cast list worthy of Agatha Christie in Those People. Louise did consider doing a Murder on the Orient Express moment and have everyone involved in a death but decided not to. (I did think about this when I was reading it!)

Although Snakes and Ladders does have a set cast and lots of red herrings, Victoria isn’t that keen on Agatha Christie either. She did cover Agatha’s real-life disappearance for her podcast though.

Well, it was definitely an interesting evening with serial killers, haunted red folders and defecating bees! Thank you to the panel for coming along.

There’s only one more First Monday Crime for 2019 and we’re going a little bit cosy. Our panel will be Simon Brett, Shamini Flint, Tarquin Hall and Sam Blake with Jake Kerridge moderating. As it’s the season of goodwill we’ll have wine courtesy of Severn House and cookies for everyone from me. And since it’s almost Christmas, we may have some extra entertainment for you! Trust me – you don’t want to miss this! Reserve your seat here.

To find out more about our November authors and buy their books, just click on their names.

Abir Mukherjee

Louise Candlish

Alex North

Victoria Selman

 

First Monday Crime Q&A with Louise Candlish @1stMondayCrime @louise_candlish @simonschusterPR @jessbarrett88

It’s almost time for our November panel. We’ve got a cracking line-up with Louise Candlish, Alex North, Victoria Selman and Abir Mukherjee. I’ve had the chance to read Louise’s latest book, Those People. Thank you to Jess Barrett for sending me a copy. So I have a review and a Q&A to share with you today.  But first, the blurb.

The Blurb

MEET THE NEIGHBOURS YOU’LL LOVE TO HATE

Until Darren and Jodie move in, Lowland Way is a suburban paradise. Beautiful homes. Friendly neighbours. Kids playing out in the street. But Darren and Jodie don’t follow the rules and soon disputes over loud music and parking rights escalate to threats of violence.

Then, early one Sunday, a horrific crime shocks the street. As the police go house-to-house, the residents close ranks and everyone’s story is the same: They did it.

But there’s a problem. The police don’t agree. And the door they’re knocking on next is yours. 

Those People cover

My Review

Darren and Jodie are a threat to the peaceful community they’ve moved into. With loud music at all hours of the day and night, noisy house renovations and cars scattered around the road taking up valuable parking spaces, they’re not like the other residents. And they’re oblivious to the trauma they’re causing their new neighbours. Something has to be done.

I have to admit that I nervously laughed through some of the passages in Those People. We’ve definitely had some ‘interesting’ neighbours in our time and I could certainly relate to a lot of the problems faced by the residents of Lowland Way. Louise Candlish brilliantly captures the feelings of frustration and anger felt by the neighbours. Unsurprisingly, those frustrations cause other resentments to bubble to the surface and the veneer of harmony becomes cracked. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Ralph and his brother Finn, along with their respective wives, Naomi and Tess. In fact the tension is really between Naomi and Tess. Living next door to each other, even opening up the two back gardens, their lives are entwined in a way that’s no longer acceptable to Tess. And then there’s Sissy whose B&B business is going down the plug hole because of the new neighbours opposite. However the neighbour I related to most was Em. Dealing with noise from attached neighbours when you have a small baby or child is not fun. Sleep deprivation is hard enough without the neighbours adding to it. I know this all too well!

Using multiple viewpoints for the narrative, this is a stylish psychological thriller. I didn’t guess everything and I liked how the end of the book was left slightly open. I don’t think Louise Candlish has done this for a sequel but more the sense that life goes on regardless. I thoroughly recommend Those People, especially if you have difficult neighbours. Warning though – you may recognise yourself in one of the characters!

You can buy Those People here or better still come along on Monday 4th November to City University and get yourself a signed copy. Reserve your seat here.

 

The Q&A

Can you tell us about your latest book – Those People?

It’s about bad neighbours and how not to handle the kind of dispute that goes on every day up and down the land. I think of Our House and Those People as cautionary tales about the way we live now and the message in Those People is that everyone’s life is of equal value. One or two residents on Lowland Way, like Ralph and Naomi Morgan, seem to think that some neighbours are more equal than others. So I created a murder mystery around this question of status and entitlement. My aim was to begin with a very stark position – newcomers Darren and Jodie are obviously the anti-social ones – and gradually lead readers towards questioning who the anti-social ones really are.

 

Having had some ‘interesting’ neighbours myself, there were times when I nervously laughed at some of the passages. Have you drawn on real experiences from your own life or others you know?

Yes, both my experiences and those of friends. I quickly learned that everyone has a bad neighbour story! My own bad neighbour was an obsessive DIY fanatic, who drilled at midnight and lit bonfires (which he then left burning while he went off to work). Some of the stories people told me were very extreme: one friend of mine had heroin addicts next door who actually burned their own house down. Another friend sold up and left London because of partying neighbours. Noise is the number one cause of disputes.

 

How did you set about creating Lowland Way and its inhabitants?

I was already immersed in this sort of street from Our House and I know from my own neighbourhood in South London what the ingredients are in a gentrifying/gentrified area, so the map was really clear in my mind. The residents of Lowland Way are united in their opposition to the invaders, Darren and Jodie, so I thought carefully about their individual agendas, so they each have a different lens through which they view the enemy. For instance for Sissy it’s financial: she survives surprisingly hand-to-mouth through her B&B bookings and when the online ratings go down, she suffers. For Ralph, a locking of horns with a rival alpha male is symbolised by his parking obsession. For Tess, it’s through pets and the swans in the park, while Ant and Em are focused on the health and well-being of their baby.

 

Houses or homes are often a feature in your books (certainly on the great covers). Do you tend to think of the house as a character in itself?

Very much so. The moral of Our House is, don’t let your property have more power than the people in it. In Those People, the renovation of a property indirectly causes the first death. Homes should be safe, but can be dangerous – that’s at the heart of domestic noir.

 

I’m trying not to give anything away here but the ending of Those People is left slightly open. Is this a deliberate ploy?

Yes, as with Our House, I like to leave the reader with both hope and dread. It’s a risk, because some readers like every loose end tied up and I always leave one or two fraying!

 

On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about coming to First Monday Crime?

10 of course! I’ve hoped for ages I would be invited!

 

The Author

Louise Candlish

Louise Candlish is the bestselling author of twelve novels. Her thriller Our House was a number one bestseller in paperback, ebook and audiobook and is shortlisted for a 2019 British Book Award – Crime & Thriller Book of the Year. It has been optioned for TV by Death in Paradise producers Red Planet Pictures, and was picked as a Book of the Year 2018 by the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Real Simple, the Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Sunday Express, Red and Heat. Louise lives in London with her family.