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.
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.
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!
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!
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.