An upscale London neighborhood becomes the setting for escalating class warfare in Candlish's (Our House, 2018, etc.) acidly funny and disturbing novel of domestic suspense.
With a structure reminiscent of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, Candlish's latest opens with a teaser about the horrific, unexpected death of an unidentified character and then backtracks eight weeks to examine the events that precipitated that death on a quiet little block of Lowland Way. Here live upwardly mobile Ralph and his take-charge wife, Naomi, Ralph's slightly less successful brother, Finn, and his reticent wife, Tess, stressed young parents Ant and Em, and determined Sissy, who has turned her home into a bed-and-breakfast after her husband's decampment. Into this uncertain Eden arrives unrepentant commoner Darren, who promptly turns the house he has inherited from his Aunt Jean into a “disaster zone” of a construction site, blasting hard rock at all hours, taking up valuable parking spaces with the used cars he sells, and generally tampering with “the solid, unassailable respectability” of the neighborhood. Soon enough, he and his “other half,” Jodie, have gotten on the last nerve of everyone on the block, and every neighborhood conversation turns to a heated discussion of ways, legal and ethical or not so much, to get rid of him. Candlish slyly examines the primitive urges behind her supposedly civilized characters as the novel inexorably turns from light comedy of manners to something much darker. While some of the turns of the plot strain credulity, and some of the characters are better developed than others, Candlish convincingly portrays the effects of pressure on this social microcosm as fault lines open both within the characters and in their relationships. Although Darren is not, like the others, seen from the inside, Candlish allows the reader to glimpse the complicated man behind the caricature his neighbors create.
A nicely paced, wryly intelligent novel with sharp insights into human behavior.