The Only Suspect by Louise Candlish

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on The Only Suspect, the brand new novel from Louise Candlish. This is my first novel by this author but I am definitely a convert. My thanks to publisher Simon & Schuster for the advance copy for review. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Release Date: 02 January 2023
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

About the Book

There’s the obvious story. And then there’s the truth.
Alex lives a comfortable life with his wife Beth in the leafy suburb of Silver Vale. Fine, so he’s not the most extrovert guy on the street, he prefers to keep himself to himself, but he’s a good husband and an easy-going neighbour.
That’s until Beth announces the creation of a nature trail on a local site that’s been disused for decades and suddenly Alex is a changed man. Now he’s always watching. Questioning. Struggling to hide his dread . . .
As the landscapers get to work, a secret threatens to surface from years ago, back in Alex’s twenties when he got entangled with a seductive young woman called Marina, who threw both their lives into turmoil.
And who sparked a police hunt for a murder suspect that was never quite what it seemed.
It still isn’t.

My Thoughts

I haven’t read any books by Louise Candlish before. I don’t know why but I know I regret it now if this book is anything to go by. It’s a slow building thriller that once it has its hooks in you won’t let go – I devoured this in one afternoon – and packed with so many twists you need to be careful not to get whiplash. It’s psychological fiction or domestic noir with a deliciously surprising turn – just how I like it. This is the story of Rick who has the misfortune of falling in love with the wrong person. Marina may seem like an angel to him, with the perfect taste in frozen yoghurt, but all that perfection comes at a price and Rick is about to be given the bill …

I don’t want to say too much about the plot as I think that this would spoil the enjoyment of the book. The real joy comes in discovering all of the various little twists for yourself, seeing if you can preempt that is to come and trying to stay just one step ahead of the very twisted and cleverly conniving mind of the author. In some extents I can say yes – I did anticipate one or two of the revelations but, in fairness, they weren’t any that were going to spoil the surprises still to come. It’s clear from the off that there are some dark deeds undertaken in this story, the extent of which are gradually revealed, but just when you think you have a handle on everything, when you think that Louise Candlish cannot catch you out again, she quite probably will. It’s like the Twilight Zone of domestic thrillers – park your preconceptions at the door and prepare yourself for some shocking revelations as you enjoy the party.

I really like how the author has shaped and crafted her characters, creating a really diverse cast who I loved and often loathed in equal measure. I certainly held a healthy amount of scepticism towards some of them, having the benefit of detachment to view all that was happening objectively which those who were in the heart of the story naturally wouldn’t. I liked Rick. He did come across as a bit of a needy sap at times, but ultimately he was someone who I was happy to move through the story with, if only to see at which point he could finally twig some of the more obvious aspects of the story. He was kind and loving and ultimately acting in good faith, even if those around him were then able to play on his naivety a little too often. As for those around him, Louise Candlish is adept at creating believable and three dimensional characters who could easily have been people from your own life. I’m hoping no-one I know would do what happens in this book, but it’s not impossible. The way they behaved, their interactions and the moments of tension that ensued, all added to the pull of the story and kept the tension high even in the most seemingly banal moments.

This is a dual timeline story set in present day and in 1995. The periods set in the past felt authentic and many a scene made me smile, reminiscing over times past and the dodgy music of my youth. Whilst the key action and the really dynamic and jeopardy laden parts of the story take place in the past, the chapter set in the present are important too. These are told from the point of view of Alex, a man who has ties to the past in ways which are not immediately obvious. The more you read, the more you understand, but the author has woven the two settings together so well that the story just flows, and the movement between past and present are clear and not at all jarring as they could have been. The more we learn of the present, the more the tension ramps up in the scenes set in the past, the two threads feeding off each other and making it a story I couldn’t help but race through.

The biggest reveal, the biggest surprise of them all, comes towards the end of the book, the final piece of the puzzle slotting in to place and turning everything on its head. A crafty and manipulative bit of storytelling by the author and I loved it. It brought a smile to my face, and left me completely satisfied. I loved the flow of the writing, the way in which the author drew me in and kept me hooked, and the wondrous array of characters, endearing, irritating of nefarious as they all were. Definitely recommended. I’m off to find some of her earlier books now. That TBR list is going to be taller than ever!

About the Author

Louise Candlish is the Sunday Times bestselling author of fourteen novels. Our House, a #1 bestseller, won the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards, was longlisted for the 2019 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and was shortlisted for the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award. It is soon to be a major ITV drama made by Death in Paradise producers Red Planet Pictures. Louise lives in London with her husband and daughter.