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The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic

BOTTOM LINE: Disappointing

Genre: Suspense; Thriller
Publication Date: 10 April 2018
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis from the Publisher:

The perfect couple. The perfect house. The perfect crime.

Londoners Jack and Syd found their dream home: lots of space, a great location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

Everything is exactly what they hoped for when they move in–except Jack makes a disturbing discovery in the attic, and Syd begins to wonder about the girl next door. And they each keep the other in the dark.

A mistake.

Because someone has just been killed outside their back door, and now the police are watching them.

This is their chance to prove they’re innocent–or to get away with murder.

Whose story do you believe?

My Thoughts: The New Neighbors is another book I have read in recent weeks where the synopsis makes it sound much more interesting than it really is. In fact, if you did not read the synopsis, you would be unclear just what was happening. The story does not begin with a murder. In fact, no one mentions murder until well past the halfway point. Only then does the story shift into a murder mystery. Prior to that point, it reads more like a relationship story in which the drama is between Jack and Syd and not with any neighbors.

I say the story begins as a relationship story because it starts as a journal kept by both Jack and Syd in which they write a letter to the other, telling their version of events, their feelings during those events, and their general thoughts. We learn their individual feelings about buying the house and their reasons for doing so. We learn a bit about how their relationship formed. We see how each views any situation differently. There is reference to the need to capture on paper everything that has happened and the hope that the exercise will help them make more sense of those mysterious events. However, there is only one cursory reference to the police to indicate that the event they want to understand is ominous in nature.

The problem with the story is that it veers down several different paths and does so without warning or tying back to the previous path. It starts out as a strained relationship novel, veers into a murder mystery, followed quickly by an abuse story. It is not until the end where all arcs combine together into one. This lack of cohesion makes the novel confusing if only because you never know where you stand or where the story is going. You are left wondering if it is going to veer into yet another direction or if it will eventually make sense.

Plus, even though we supposedly get to know Jack and Syd through their innermost thoughts via journal entries, they remain relatively one-dimensional. Jack in particular remains unchanged as the story shifts from his story to that of Syd’s. There is no growth or learning in either character and certainly no changes. It is not that they are bad characters, but we only get one glimpse into their lives and even then it is what they deem to put on paper. By the end of the novel, you understand just how many secrets they continued to keep from each other and consequently from the reader.

I hate to say this but The New Neighbors suffers for trying to be too clever and too Gone Girl. Multiple plot twists and potentially unreliable narrators does not always make for a good story, which is where we find ourselves with this one. The New Neighbors has all the feel of a bad roller coaster, one in which you start out excited hoping it is going to be good and finish the ride grateful that it is over. You don’t really know what happened in-between those two, but you just know that you did not enjoy it.

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