Today I am delighted to share my thoughts on The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins. I’ve had this book on my to be read list since I was given an advance copy at last year’s Bloody Scotland, but still I hadn’t read it. I made a vow to myself at Harrogate to remedy that, and remedy it I did. And I am now kicking myself that I took so long to bloody read it as it’s fabulous. My thanks to publisher Pan Macmillan for the copy (even if I have bought it in hardback and kindle since, it started with the ARC …). Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
A new home. A new start.Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books
It’s all the Lockwoods want.
And on The Avenue, a leafy street in an Essex town near the sea, it seems possible.
But what if what they want isn’t what they get?
On their moving-in day they arrive to a media frenzy.
A serial killer has struck in the woods behind The Avenue.
The police are investigating.
And the neighbours quite clearly have secrets.
With their dream quickly turning into a nightmare, the Lockwoods are watching everyone.
But who’s watching them?
Are you old enough to remember what your parents may have referred to as ‘the good old days’? The days when you knew everyone in your street (well you Mom and Nan did), and you used to feel safe playing out until all hours, the only curfew being ‘before it got dark’ … Those days are long gone for me. I have new neighbours who I have said hello to, and they seem normal enough, as I’m sure I do to them. But normal is such a relative term. How do they view my comings and goings? My disappearing all the time for long weekends? God only knows what they’d have thought about me before I changed jobs, sneaking off at two in the morning and arriving back some time later in the day. Maybe …
Well – whatever they think, they should be thankful I’m a darned sight more normal than the neighbours that the Lockwoods are faced with when they move to their new, not remotely dream, home in The Avenue. Forced to move due a significant change in personal circumstance and with at least one of them trying to turn their back on a massive personal mistake, on their very first day they turn up with the moving van, only to be greeted by a crime scene. A grizzly murder which has occured in the woods that borders their street. Happy moving day indeed.
The murder is only one of many, as the story is soon to reveal, the victime just the latest of many who have fallen prey to the person the papers have named ‘The Dollmaker’ for reasons which will become apparent. But this latest victim makes the case very personal for Detective Sergeant Wildeve Stanton and this drives her determination to find the killer, as well as causing her great emotional turmoil that we see play out on the page.
The story moves back and forth in time a little, but never in a way which detaches the reader from the narrative. It is mostly through the eyes of the killer who is recounting their own past and the events which have brought us to today. The secrets they have held within and that they have killed to protect. But as to which of the neighbours on The Avenue it is that has this darkest of secrets … well you really need to read the book to understand what this is the most complex and cleverly sculpted puzzle I have read in a while. In many ways, the Lockwoods have moved to both the best, and the worst, fitting street for their own circumstance, one of the parents being no stranger to secrets themselves. With the strange array of characters on the street, they will fit right in.
I loved the way in which the author drew me into the story from the outset, creating such tension and emotion, but also such doubt over all of the characters, that I was always left with the feeling I was on the cusp of some great discovery, but not quite able to grasp that final, vital clue. You could feel the tension build, and with each confession of our deadly narrator, another vital piece of the puzzle slipped into place. And yet the killer was able to hide in plain sight, their motive surprising and their methods simple and very effective. It is perhaps the brutality of how they leave their victims that will shock the most, but the imagery is absolutely perfect both with and without the benefit of hindsight.
I found myself completely hooked to this story, keen to understand the who, the what and they how. The writing is immaculate as I have come to expect of the author. The scenes near to the beginning when Wildeve attends the post mortem of one of the victims is both emotional and visceral, the real shock coming not from the description of the state of the victim but the revelation at the end of the scene. A real succer punch to the gut, but one which prives the author’s pedigree and that you do not need gratuitous or overt violence to shock a reader. Sometimes the simplest of touches is enough.
I loved the complexity of the characters, the very real personal circumstances and emotional reactions that were in play. From the rebellious teenagers, the sensitive younger sibling or the dedicated husband who would do anything for his wife, they are all represented, and all feel authentic. You become invested in each of their lives, almost hooked on the kind of gossip as we move from house to house, learning more about the people whose lives are being turned upside down by the murders on their doorstep. It really is like spying on neighbours, although I’m fairly certain that nothing this dark has happened on my street. At least … I hope not.
If you liked the author’s Fitzroy/The Collector series then you will love this too. She excels at creating complex characters and dark stories that build in creepy as hell settings, and is there anything more unsettling a shop full of old wooden puppets and creepy dolls? I think not. Dark, compelling and full of both emotion and the right amount of near psychotically emotional detachment, this is another cracking read from Fiona Cummins and highly recommended by me. You’ll never look at your Neighbours in the same way again …
Definitely one for my Bookvent countdown, and definitely one for one of these little gems too …
About the Author
Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror showbusiness journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy Writing A Novel course. Rattle, her debut novel, has been translated into several languages and received widespread critical acclaim from authors including Val McDermid, Lee Child and Martina Cole. Marcel Berlins wrote in The Times: ‘Amid the outpouring of crime novels, Rattle is up there with the best of them.’
Fiona was selected for McDermid’s prestigious New Blood panel at the 2017 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, where her novel was nominated for a Dead Good Reader Award for Most Exceptional Debut.
Rattle is now being adapted into a six-part TV series by the producers of Golden Globe-nominated Miss Sloane.
A sequel, The Collector, was published in February 2018 and David Baldacci described it as ‘A crime novel of the very first order’. Her third novel – standalone thriller The Neighbour – was published in April 2019.
When Fiona is not writing, she can be found on Twitter, eating biscuits or walking her dog. She lives in Essex with her family.