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Those People

by Louise Candlish
Berkley, June 2019, $26

Louise Candlish is the mistress of misdirection. Just when it looks as though one thing is about to happen in her novels, something else happens. She did it first with Our House (2018), her debut domestic thriller that puzzled readers until the very end. Her facile technique makes for an enthralling, and sometimes disarmingly tense, excursion into other people’s lives.

This time, she achieves it with Those People, a disturbing cautionary tale of those who live nearest, but are certainly not dearest to us. Who are those people? The ones who move into a quiet neighborhood and wreak havoc? Or the ones who already live there and want to maintain the status quo?

The little block of Lowland Way in the upscale estates eight miles from the center of London is a community of families. On "play out" Sundays, the street is closed to traffic so kids can play safely—skateboard, stilt walk, hopscotch, Hula-Hoop. Everyone knows everyone, but it may take a reader a bit of time to sort out the key players. Once Candlish establishes the her cast and setting, though, he novel quickly becomes a fast-paced heart-stopper.

Brothers Ralph and Finn Morgan live next door to each other at Numbers 7 and 5. Ralph is the very successful owner of a small leather goods wholesale business; Finn is a logistics manager for a corporate events specialist. They share backyard gardens and their wives are Naomi (cofounder of a website for mums of preschoolers), and Tess (a stay-at-home mum who conducts a cygnet watch of the young swans on a nearby pond), respectively. Anthony and Em Kendall and their six-month-old son, Sam, are in the semi-detached at Number 3. Across the street, divorced Sissy Watkins has turned Number 2 into a profitable B&B.

They are all content with their established routines until the resident in Number 1 dies and leaver her home to her reprobate nephew, Darren Booth. When he and his foul-mouthed better half, Jodie, move in, there goes the neighborhood. The dominoes begin to fall.

Darren fancies himself a mechanic. He clutters the street with junkers, taking up all the valuable parking spots. Worse, he and Jodie blast heavy metal music at all hours. The Morgans are concerned about property values; the Kendalls worry that the noise decibel level will harm their infant’s hearing; and Sissy sees her bookings vanish as a result of poor ratings from guests.

After a hastily installed scaffolding appears at the Booths, the others decide something has to be done. What happens next sets the swirling plot into high speed. Block rage rules. It rises to a crescendo of death and disorder. Chaos reigns and the Metropolitan Police begin a series of inquiries that lead to investigations of everyone on the street.

Those People is fraught with left turns and multiple ironies that lead to a “summer of shocks.” Readers probably wouldn’t choose to live beside any of Candlish’s characters. It’s not that they’re unlikable, but they’d be hard to trust.-

Robert Allen Papinchak
Teri Duerr
June 2019