Source: Review copy, Netgalley
Publication 4th April 2019 from MacMillan
FOR SALE: A lovely family home with good-sized garden and treehouse occupying a plot close to woodland. Perfect for kids, fitness enthusiasts, dog walkers . . .
And, it seems, the perfect hunting ground for a serial killer.
On a hot July day, Garrick and Olivia Lockwood and their two children move into 25 The Avenue looking for a fresh start. They arrive in the midst of a media frenzy: they’d heard about the local murders in the press, but Garrick was certain the killer would be caught and it would all be over in no time. Besides, they’d got the house at a steal and he was convinced he could flip it for a fortune.
The neighbours seemed to be the very picture of community spirit. But everyone has secrets, and the residents in The Avenue are no exception.
After six months on the case with no real leads, the most recent murder has turned DC Wildeve Stanton’s life upside down, and now she has her own motive for hunting down the killer – quickly.
As I am writing this, listening to the radio, Alicia Keyes’ This Girl Is On Fire comes on and in one song perfectly sums up the way I feel about Fiona Cummins and The Neighbour.
This is writing that zings; prose that from the opening takes you in a vice like grip and doesn’t let go until the end.
The opener is classic Cummins. Striking, pictorial, haunting, a tableau of horror that you won’t forget as you read onwards into the chapter.
The Neighbour is a stand-alone thriller, though, frankly, DS Wildeve Stanton is a character who I will welcome in any book Ms Cummins chooses to write. We are in Essex and a serial killer known as ‘The Dollmaker’ has just claimed a fifth victim in the woods next to a road in a small housing estate called The Avenue. All the victims share the same distinct hallmarks; they are dressed just like dolls with painted faces and glass eyes. Coincidentally (?) there is a dollmaker living on The Avenue.
But that’s what makes The Neighbour so creepy. On The Avenue, we learn that everyone has secrets; everyone is telling their version of the truth, or is lying. Cummins lets us peer through windows, catch glimpses of dark deeds as we become the peeping Toms peering through the darkness of these lives in the hope of seeing some action or finding the truth.
Police are making little progress and the pressure is tightening. The team of officers are sniping amongs themselves and DS Wildeve Stanton is struggling with her own deeply personal grief which is fuelling her determination to catch this killer- whatever it takes.
Each chapter features a a different character and viewpoint and just when you think you are getting to know and understand these people another revelatory aspect of their characters opens up. These are neighbours who you really don’t want to be living beside.
The menace is palpable and the characterisation has depth. Cummins is adept at seeing the darkness in everyone and conveying it effortlessly onto the page. The killer’s thoughts are peppered throughout the book offering a dark and merciless insight into a black heart.
The Neighbour is tense, dramatic, creepy and tinged with real horror. Cummins writing also conveys moments of serious emotion, pathos and sadness.
This is writing of the first order that takes the reader on a twisted journey to look into the lives of these neighbours and discover their deepest, darkest secrets. You’ll never see ‘her next door’ in the same way again.
Verdict: Beautifully written with depth and insight, this is a killer read that shoots straight onto to the must read list.
Fiona Cummins is a graduate of the prestigious Faber Academy in London and an award‑winning journalist. She spent twelve years at Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper as its chief showbiz reporter, interviewing celebrities from Michael Jackson to George Clooney. She was named Showbusiness Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards in 2007, and has been nominated four times. Now freelance, her work has appeared in numerous UK publications, as well as appearing on several national TV programs. She lives in Essex with her husband and two children.