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In any big city, people whose lives are in transition drift in and out of places like 23 Beulah Grove, at the edge of the London sprawl. Once a respectable Edwardian house, it's now divided into six small, dusty apartments. The landlord is a creep, but he doesn't ask too many questions--and that's just what these tenants need.
When a desperate woman rents a just-vacated room, she meets the other five tenants: a Persian asylum-seeker, a man who never turns off his music, a self-described "perky scouse" girl from Liverpool, a friendly but boring guy whose work hours have been cut, and an older lady with a "secure tenancy"--a permanent lease.
Everyone is nice enough, but all of them, even the landlord, have some things they'd rather not talk about--especially the one who's a killer with some imaginatively sick preferences. And all of them are in for more adventure than they ever thought they'd have!
Like Alex Marwood's last book (The Wicked Girls), The Killer Next Door is a stand-alone thriller. But again, within that framework, the author manages to explore some themes more often seen only in the Literary genre: the transient nature of some friendships, the sting of class inequality, the difficulty of change in human lives, and the side effects of gentrification, just to name a few.
And again, in spite of the different and bigger cast of characters this time, all are fully developed: like them or hate them, all are real people. I love thrillers, but often I find myself wishing for something a little chewier--this fits the bill nicely, and Marwood is already on my favorite authors list.
One warning: if you're at all sensitive, there are some pretty graphic (and gross!) passages here that were enough to make me pause the book and breathe deeply for a minute before going back to the story. But of course I did go back to the story--I had to find out what would happen next!
Part of that was because Imogen Church's narration didn't let me down--she brought out both the warmth and the fear in this story, as well as doing a great job on all the British accents.
Stephen King described this book as "scary as hell," and I agree--but thanks to Marwood's talent, it's so much more than a good scare. If you liked The Wicked Girls (or if you are a fan of Gillian Flynn, or Laura Lippman), you'll love The Killer Next Door. Highly recommended!
170 of 174 people found this review helpful
I picked up this book, one of Audible's Daily Deals, on the strength of Alex Marwood's last book, "The Wicked Girls," and now Marwood has joined my list of authors to follow - she tells a good story, she's carving out a niche for herself, and so far she's avoided the series trap.
Marwood's niche seems to be "Lower-class British crime thrillers." "Lower-class" referring to the characters, not the books. In The Wicked Girls, we got a look at the lives of two girls who'd gotten into trouble as teenagers, and the very different paths their lives took because of how the system treated them. In The Killer Next Door, we have a collection of down-and-outers in London - runaways, political refugees, old people with nowhere else to go, the broken and the unemployed, all living in a shabby rental unit with your typical sleazy landlord.
The eclectic personalities - the 15-year-old runaway, the Iranian political refugee, the septuagenarian with the secured tenancy who's lived in this dump her entire life, the ex-bartender who's wanted by the police and by gangsters - are all trying to mind their own business when a series of events brings inevitable disruption into their lives. First, there's the sleazy landlord, who would really like to get rid of Vesta, the old lady whose secured tenancy is costing him so much money. Then there are the people after Colette. And finally, there is the serial killer living among them.
The last element is, of course, the major twist in the book, and Marwood spends plenty of time delving into his psyche and the world through his POV. A really nasty, self-pitying world it is, too, and quite plausible. You almost want to feel sorry for the pathetic little schmuck, except for the fact that he's a serial killer who lures women into his apartment so he can murder them and then turn them into mummified RealDolls to share affection with. Marwood also does not stint on graphic descriptions of bodily fluids and effluvia. So, this is a pretty violent and gross novel.
But it's very well done, and underneath the crime thriller aspects (there isn't much time spent teasing the reader about who the serial killer is, since the suspect list is so small), it's also a harsh look at modern British society, with its underlying class system still very much intact, and the "poshes" and the not-so-poshes living in very different worlds. Marwood's sympathies are clearly with the not-so-poshes, as all her protagonists are people who've been kicked around a lot by life, but keep going and sometimes manage to get back up.
Very much recommended if you fancy a thriller set in a dark and gritty London that doesn't resemble anything you see on the BBC.
24 of 24 people found this review helpful