Finished June 18
The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood, read by Imogen Church
This suspense novel has some very graphic scenes of murder and its aftermath. But it is also ones of those books with interesting twists and turns and I just wanted to stay with it and read until the end.
In the London suburb of Northbourne, there is a house, 23 Beulah Grove, that has been split into small bedsits and apartments. The landlord is Roy Preece, a man in his 40s who inherited the house from an aunt. Overweight and predatory on his female tenants, Roy is always looking for ways to increase his rent income.
As the book begins, Collette is being shown a bedsit. The previous tenant, Nikki, disappeared and he is quick to move someone else in, even though all her stuff is still there.
Vesta lives in the basement, in the largest apartment, one she's lived in all her life. Her rent is controlled, and on her small pension she isn't going anywhere.
Collette rents the small bedsit on the main floor, cleaning up Nikki's stuff herself to enable her to move in more quickly. Collette is on the run, and has been for three years. She hasn't been back in England since she ran from witnessing a violent attack, and both the police and her former employer are looking for her. They seem to keep finding her, causing her to move on often. She is back because her mother has been moved to a nursing home and she wants to be close to her.
Also on the main floor is Gerard, a reclusive music teacher, who plays his music at high volume for hours. They share a bathroom.
On the second floor is a young woman, Cher, of mixed race, who lives a precarious life, stealing what she needs to survive. When Roy warns her that he is raising her rent, she must take more risks to get the money she needs.
Also on the second floor is Hussein, a refugee claimant from Iran. He was a teacher there, but his views got him in trouble and his wife went out one day and never returned. He thinks she was taken to prison and tortured, but he doesn't know for sure. He isn't allowed to work while he waits, but he has been writing articles for anyone who'll take them, and the refugee board pays for his room. He and Cher share a bathroom.
On the top floor is Thomas, a man who works for the Citizens' Advisory Bureau, and whose manner and incessant talking turn away most people he encounters. He is lonely and eager to connect with others.
As the tenants interact, we see how they are all people who have slipped below notice of the rest of the world. But they make connections to each other. Vesta has always been good at making friends and she has befriended both Hussein and Cher, and quickly includes Collette in her group. She is a motherly figure, with common sense and good at observing what goes on around her. She knows that Roy is always trying to find ways to urge her to leave so he can raise the rent, by not performing maintenance and making changes to make her home less inviting, but she is determined to stay in the only home she has.
One night, the sewer back up, and Vesta is hardest hit, bringing out her emotions against Roy. When something terrible happens that night she, along with the other tenants deal with the aftermath, working together to keep their lives intact without involving the authorities.
What they don't know is that one of them is a killer, who has already murdered more than once and who has his eyes on his next victim. The reader knows him as The Lover and must wonder which of the male characters he is as the book progresses.
With Roy's greed, Collette's fear, Cher's desperation, Vesta's intransigence, Hussein's grief, Thomas' loneliness, and Gerard's obliviousness, the characters combine to form interesting interactions.
I really enjoyed this read.