A(nother) Review: Those People by Louise Candlish

Two reviews in two days? No, I didn’t read it that quickly, I’m trying to catch up on my reviews – I have quite a few outstanding, so here goes with the next one.

 

The Facts

 

Title Those People

Author Louise Candlish (Twitter: @Louise_Candlish)

Publisher Simon & Schuster

Publication Date 11thJuly 2019

Buy it on Bert’s Books bertsbooks.co.uk/those-people

 

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.

 

Does it deliver?

It absolutely does.

 

It takes time for the reader to discover what the crime that shocks the street is, the first part of the novel begins the day that Darren and Jodie move in, but each chapter begins with snippets of transcripts between the police and the neighbours describing what happened that Sunday morning.

 

It works well to build up the tension, but I was half expecting the crime to be the main focus of the book, instead, we reach it within a third of the novel and we then focus on the fall-out and the escalating tension between Darren and Jodie and the rest of the neighbours – building to an ending, leaves the loose ends just tied tight enough for you to want that teensy bit more, but feeling satisfied

 

Characters

We follow four neighbours – Ralph, Tess, Sissy and Ant – they are in effect the heroes of our story, battling against the invasion to their perfect lives. That’s certainly how they see themselves

 

And while Darren and Jodie aren’t exactly the nicest neighbours to have, they’ve technically not committed any crimes. They just haven’t fitted in.

 

There’s a wonderful moment when Ralph – after having encourage Ant to record Jodie and Darren’s driveway for evidence – complains that Darren is looking out his window at them. “He’s probably a paedophile” he complains.

 

And that’s typical of these characters. They’re all nice enough on the surface, but they’re full of prejudice and NIMBYism. It is said that a person’s true character is revealed when they’re put under pressure, and that’s certainly what happens here.

 

Candlish has created a large cast, but one that is easy to get a grip on and instantly feels real and compelling.

 

The Setting

Most of the action takes place in Lowland Way – a street in modern-day London, with a few small snippets taking place in some nearby pubs. Candlish cleverly doesn’t waste too much time describing the street.

 

We all know places like Lowland Way and all have our own images of it. The geography of the houses starts to make itself known naturally as the book progresses. I imagined a mix of Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives and the street I grew up in.

 

The Verdict – 9/10

It’s another strong book that I think will be a big hit this summer. It builds tension and suspense throughout and even though you might find yourself not liking the characters very much, you do still care about them, wishing them their little victories, excusing some of their mistakes – even when it’s obvious they’re doing something wrong.

 

My theory is that you’ll probably find yourself feeling sympathy to one of the characters – but it’ll be a different one, depending on who you’re most like. Expect a BuzzFeed quiz on it very soon.

 

(If you feel sympathy for them all, you’ve got problems)

 

Look Out For

If you enjoyed Those People you’ll enjoy Our House also by Louise Candlish.

 

Don’t Forget…

You can buy Those People from my own online book shop Bert’s Books. If you use the code RAMBLING at the check-out, you’ll get 10% off.

 

 

A(nother) Review: The Closer I Get by Paul Burston

I’m trying out a new format for reviews – just to see if it will help me find the time to actually write them! I’m still reading loads, but not finding the time to put my thoughts down in words. Hopefully this will work!

The Facts

Title The Closer I Get

Author Paul Burston (Twitter: @PaulBurston)

Publisher Orenda Books

Publication Date 11thJuly 2019

Buy it on Bert’s Books bertsbooks.co.uk/the-closer-i-get

The Blurb

Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone.

Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her father and her social-media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has. When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world is turned upside down, and Tom is free to live his life again, to concentrate on writing

But things aren’t really adding up. For Tom is distracted but also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he feels powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on

Does it deliver?

The first two paragraphs of the blurb are a neat summary of Part One, the first sixty pages or so, where we flit between Evie’s POV and Tom’s POV during the time of the trial. 

Tom’s parts are told in third person, reflecting on the events that led them to the trial, while Evie’s sections are in first person and told through the course of the trial.  

Part Two picks up after Evie is given her restraining order and this is where the blurb doesn’t quite match up. I didn’t feel that Tom was particularly addicted to his online relationships. He does neglect a real-life friendship with Emma when he’s cruising – but that’s in real-life, not online.

Characters

The characters are sparse, we are tightly focused on Tom and Evie and their relationship, and as you might guess from the blurb, it’s only really through Tom that we meet anyone else. His best friend Emma, a hook-up called Luke, and his next-door neighbour whom he starts to form a bond with.

And though we don’t focus on them very much, it’s only really Luke who doesn’t quite feel real to me (only because his presence in parts is a little coincidental). Tom and Evie feel real, both of them flawed, and as a result we’re never quite sure if they’re both telling the truth or if neither of them are.

Tom, particularly, is well-drawn, both as the victim, and as someone who needs the victim-hood. He seeks out Evie, wanting to know where she is, wanting to keep an eye on her, and while it might be a case of wanting to keep your enemies close, it dances the line between self-protection and self-harm. 

Setting

Set between London and Hastings, this is very much set in the real world, more so than many other books I’ve read. Burston’s characters think and speak in the way we all do. They don’t sensor themselves to stop them inadvertently advertising a brand. 

When they walk past a bookshop, they walk past Foyles, not a bookshop. When Tom talks about being picked for a book club, he talks about Richard and Judy, not a ‘TV Book Club’. They’re small things, but it helps the whole world much more real.

Perhaps the only thing against it is the world doesn’t feel hugely populated, perhaps because of the limited use of characters. This works really well in Hastings, but the London scenes felt a bit 28 Days Later to me.

Verdict9/10

Of course I liked it. I don’t review books if I don’t like them, but I more than liked this book, I loved it. 

It was a gripping read, one I kept wanting to pick back up whenever I wasn’t reading it, and so I devoured it. 

It’s a new kind of fiction, not just because it explores the effects that social media has on our lives – the stalker can find out everything she needs with just a click of a mouse, but also, the victim can stalk right back – but because it’s that rare thing where a gay man is front and centre, but the plot doesn’t revolve around his sexuality.

Of course, it’s referenced, and it does play into the plot, because it’s part of who Tom is, but it doesn’t define the plot. A lot of what happened to him, could have happened to a straight man. 

Thrillers where the lead character happens to be gay are rare, and that’s what makes this refreshing. The fact it’s so well written is what makes it excellent.

Don’t Forget…

You can buy The Closer I Getfrom my own online book shop Bert’s Books. If you use the code RAMBLING at the check-out, you’ll get 10% off.