Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Review: The New Neighbors

By Jami Deise

Creepy old houses are a staple of fiction, from gothic classics such as Jane Eyre, The Turn of the Screw, and Rebecca, to new fiction such as The Broken Girls, which came out just last month. The New Neighbors, the latest novel by Simon Lelic (but his first thriller) begins promisingly in the haunted house genre.

Londoners Jack and Syd (Sydney) have purchased their first home, an overstuffed old Victorian that, in the overheated real estate market, they were lucky to get. The owner abruptly moved to Australia, leaving all his personal possessions behind.

Don’t ask what was in the attic.

Lelic tells his tale in a format I appreciated, with Jack and Syd writing down their recollections in a manuscript they share in order to make sense of what happened. This technique reminded me of the “found footage” type of film so common in low-budget supernatural horror, so I was primed for the The New Neighbors to unfold in a similar, supernatural way. Instead, the horror is of the very natural sort, as Syd becomes preoccupied with the 13-year-old neighbor across the street who seems to be a victim of abuse by her father.

Syd’s back story also plays a major role in the story; Jack’s to a lesser degree, and the creepiness of their new home disappears as these angles get more play. To be honest, as a huge haunted house fan, I was disappointed by this development, and the one-dimensional villains who are too powerful to be believed.

I was hooked enough, however, that I hung around for the ending, and I was glad I did. Even without a haunting, the book ends with a twist I didn’t see coming. As final twists are becoming more standard in the thriller genre, perhaps I should have been better prepared. In any case, this was one that was worth sticking around for.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Simon Lelic:

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