What the blurb says: “In a gloomy, bedsit-riddled South London wreck, lorded over by a lecherous landlord, a horrifying collection quietly waits to be discovered. Yet all six residents have something to hide.
Collette is on the run from her ex-boss; Cher is an underage children’s home escapee; lonely Thomas tries to make friends with his neighbours; while a gorgeous asylum seeker and a ‘quiet man’ nobody sees try to keep themselves hidden. And there for them all is Vesta, a woman who knows everything that goes on in the house – or thought she did.
Then in the dead of night, a terrible accident pushes them into an uneasy alliance. But one of them is a killer, expertly hiding their pastime, all the while closing in on their next victim …”
This is not a novel to read alone on a dark night!
Number 23 seems to operate within its own contained ecosystem. Each tenant existing alongside each other, unaware of the magnitude of their housemate’s secrets. And leaving this reader questioning just how well can you ever know your neighbours?
It’s hard to write about this psychological thriller without giving away spoilers, so I’ll not go into the plot much as I really wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. And, anyway, the real joy of this book is the vividly painted characters. Fearful Collette, with a stolen holdall filled with cash and only in the country so she can visit her dying mother; bold young Cher, with her schemes and scams, her adopted cat Psycho, and watched over by Vesta; Vesta herself, seventy years old and, having lived in the same house her whole life, wondering now whether life has somehow passed her by; Hossein, gorgeous, widowed, and desperately waiting it out until his residency is approved and he can work and build himself a new life; Thomas, the shy, quiet, part-time Citizen’s Advice worker; and the mysterious music lover who lives on the top floor and is hardly ever seen. Each of their lives is intriguing, each of them hides a great sadness, one of them is a murderer.
The question though, is which one? Some of the descriptions about how the killer preserves their victims are not for the faint-hearted. Yet, artfully, the author manages to make the killer seem both clinical and remorseless, and a rather pitiful character. But, certainly not one to be underestimated.
With the reader exposed to the killer’s thoughts and actions, there is an ever increasing sense of doom that raises the tension notch-by-notch as the story progresses.
I found that this book had me musing on what causes good people to do bad things, and bad people to do good things? This isn’t a straightforward story of good versus evil, it explores the grey area between the two, and the aftermath of what happens to those who tread there.
Engrossing, chilling, and packed with suspense.
[With thanks to Sphere for my copy of The Killer Next Door]