A couple, attempting to start a life together, faces intimidation just outside their door.
There are actually two very bad neighbors in Rutherford’s debut novel about suburban warfare: Bulla and Rudy, senior citizens who refuse to “play by civilized rules” and use their age to “appear helpless.” The police have had enough of their unwarranted complaints, and “their own children won’t even talk to them.” Thomas Smith, “a peaceful man,” finds himself pulled into their maelstrom when he moves nearby. Each season, a new conflict blooms. In winter, the bugbears are errant snow piles; in spring, missing tools and grub worms; in summer, trumpet vines and lawn mowers; and in fall, piles of dead leaves and stomped mums. When Thomas confronts Rudy, the old man replies, “This is how I get my jollies.” After struggling with rage, and his own moral high ground, Thomas concludes, “Justice would be our revenge.” Armed with Sun Tzu’s Art of War, he sets out to know his enemy: after secretly filming them, consulting with Officer Adamik and Steve, a lawyer friend, he finally obtains “an order of no trespassing.” Compelled to make points about bullying, some of Thomas’ actions reveal that it takes two to tango, no matter what their ages. It becomes difficult to retain sympathy (and recall who the bully really is) when Thomas makes what he calls “a few honest mistakes,” such as heckling the older man after the police have seemingly quieted things down. Initially, Rutherford strikes a suitable tone of suspense, but it isn’t entirely sustained. Thomas has an awkward grasp of the legal system, as well. He claims a law firm could make money off a civil case if they took it “pro-bono,” but certainly his attorney would have referred to such a case as “on contingency.” Despite all of this, he writes, somewhat anticlimactically, “the trial came and went.”
A rambling tale about the physical and emotional consequences of living next to sociopaths.