All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Those People by Louise Candlish

on July 25, 2019

Those People
Louise Candlish
Simon & Schuster AUS
2019, 384p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Could you hate your neighbour enough to plot to kill him?

Until Darren Booth moves in at number 1, Lowland Way, the neighbourhood is a suburban paradise. But soon after his arrival, disputes over issues like loud music and parking rights escalate all too quickly to public rows and threats of violence.

Then, early one Saturday, a horrific crime shocks the street. As the police go house-to-house, the residents close ranks and everyone’s story is the same: Booth did it.

But there’s a problem. The police don’t agree with them.

Lowland Way in the south of London, is like a suburban paradise. The street is full of friendly people – some of them are even family. Every Sunday they close the street to traffic, block it off and let their kids play in the street on bikes, scooters, etc. They’re tight knit, often socialising together and things have always been done a certain way. Then the previous occupant of #1 dies and her nephew Darren Booth inherits the property. It’s clear Darren isn’t really like them. He’s probably come up from somewhere else, maybe from one of the housing estates. A disagreeable man in his 50s with his wife Jodie, he’s not interested in the way things have been done in the street before. He wants to knock front walls down and renovate the house as well as running a used car yard from the front of the property. The rest of the residents are horrified but reasoning with Darren Booth is impossible. Between loud music at all hours, his cars taking up all the street parking and his attitude, things between him the other residents don’t get off to a good start and they only get worse.

I think most people have probably had neighbours they didn’t see eye to eye with at some stage or other. We’ve had some interesting ones, but probably the worst was a house of young blokes who had four quite large and aggressive dogs in a very small backyard. The dogs barked incessantly, often for hours at a time in the middle of the night. If we walked along our shared fence, they would throw themselves at it repeatedly, barking and growling. They ripped away lower parts of the wooden fencing. It got to the stage where the kids couldn’t go outside because walking down the shared fence terrified them. I was also quite worried that they might put a hand down where dogs had ripped parts of the fence away, or have a toy go there or something. We tried our best to block up the parts the dogs had ripped away with spare roof tiles and rocks. At one stage, several of the dogs turned on each other and had a vicious fight which the owners struggled to break up. One of the dogs disappeared after that and was never seen or heard of again. I never had anything to do with the people living there but they weren’t receptive to fixing the fence and it was a relief when the house was put up for sale and they moved out. The dogs had trashed the inside too, so the house underwent some pretty extensive repairs before being sold. It wasn’t a pleasant time but it could’ve been much worse in that we never had any interaction with the people themselves. I’ve never had a neighbour dispute but I can imagine that seeing someone daily when there’s a disintegrating relationship would be very difficult.

The book opens with someone’s death and then goes back to show you how it came to be. The narrative revolves between a few people living on Lowland Way – Sissy, a woman in her 60s living across the road from #1 who runs a B&B, Ant a young father who lives next door to #1 and shares a wall, Ralph a well-to-do resident several doors down from #1 who is incensed about Darren and his activities and Tessa, who lives next door to Ralph and is married to his brother Finn. This is a bone of contention for Tessa, who wants to sell and move and get out of the influence of Ralph and his wife Naomi whom Tessa often feels inferior too. Each of them have run ins with Darren and his partner Jodie that escalate and when there’s an incident of sabotage it honestly seems like any or all of them could be responsible. It’s become about more than just Darren and the unsavoury look he’s brought to Lowland Way and the fact that he won’t play nice or join in or even observe the Sunday tradition of clearing the street of cars. It’s become about winning, about not letting Darren succeed in bringing them down, especially for Ralph. And I felt especially for Ant, who with his wife and young child, shares a common wall with #1 and has to put up with incessant rock and metal music at deafening volume well into the night, every night, which takes its toll on his baby and also on his wife Em. Their marriage disintegrates under the strain, the constant noise and the fact that Ant is more a pacifist and won’t stand up to Darren or do anything about it. I found it quite interesting that for a man portrayed as he was, Darren rarely ever raised his voice, rarely ever got angry and almost never instigated anything. The longer it goes on, the more the other residents begin to seem unhinged, like Darren and his ways are quite literally driving them to the brink of mental instability. That here are these well to do, seemingly rational grown up people who are getting more and more erratic while Darren just calmly carries on doing as he’s always been doing. He doesn’t retaliate, he doesn’t shrink from the group of people that often accost him. He wasn’t likeable at all, but there was something about that way in which he didn’t rise to the bait that I found interesting.

This was a fun read although it did lag a bit in the middle after a dramatic reveal where things just kept kind of muddling along without really going anywhere and everyone kept being implicated and then not. It felt a fraction too long in parts, like a lot of it was just filler and repeated conversations that had kind of already taken place and the same two police officers wandering around and asking pointed questions and giving nothing away at the answers. The story got a little frustrating at times because I didn’t feel like it was moving forward, like all the characters were just a bit stagnant and stuck in the same pattern. Also if this is an accurate representation of how councils operate in London, it’s a sad state of affairs! The residents try very hard at first, lodging objections and complaints about what Darren is doing and it seems the whole car yard thing he’s running is definitely illegal but they get no where. And ultimately things escalate to the fact where tragedy is the outcome.

I did appreciate the ending. Something very poetic in that.


Book #111 of 2019

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