Good Neighbours by Sarah Langan #BookReview

I’m delighted that this review is part of the Titan Books blog tour to promote ‘Good Neighbours’. Massive thanks to them for the opportunity to take part and for providing me with a review copy of the book.

Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.

But when the Wilde family moves in, they trigger their neighbours’ worst fears. Arlo and Gertie and their weird kids don’t fit with the ways Maple Street sees itself.

As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and neighbourhood Queen Bee Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the others in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.

Title: Good Neighbours | Author: Sarah Langan | Publisher: Titan Books | Publication date: 12th July 2021 | Source: Publisher

‘Good Neighbours’ is very different from the kinds of books I intend to review here, but it was so damn good I had to get my thoughts down somewhere. Sarah Langan isn’t an author I’ve come across before, but I’ll definitely be looking out for her work in future.

The cover conjures up the kind of domestic thriller that I usually take pains to avoid. The Liane Moriarty kind of thing with suburban women talking to each other a lot and some kind of mystery stringing it all together. Fortunately, ‘Good Neighbours’ is a very different beast. It has a darkness at its core that Shirley Jackson would have been proud of and the kind of well observed take on modern middle class society that Celeste Ng does so well.

The story concerns the Wildes, a slightly rough around the edges family who have moved to a well to do suburb that does little to welcome them. Two relationships anchor the story, one between Gertie Wilde and her neighbour Rhea Shroeder and another between their daughters, Julia and Shelly. Right from the off, Langan includes excerpts from books about a violent tragedy that befalls the residents of Maple Street, so we know all along that things aren’t going to end well.

The path between the start and the finale is a twisting one and kept me hooked and off balance. It’s filled with little cruelties and much larger ones, and with an acute psychological insight into what makes people tick. Langan throws in a mysterious sinkhole, which might have felt like a clumsy metaphor but actually works well here, giving the book an otherworldly sinisterness that goes beyond people being beastly to each other.   

The thing that makes the book work as well as it does, is the depth of the characters. All are convincing and sympathetic, even when they’re being awful. Combine that with the sense of impending doom that comes from knowing that you’re hurtling towards a terrible event and you have something very strong indeed. ‘Good Neighbours’ is a rmodern thriller that is as chilling and gripping as it is moving. Highly recommended.

4/5

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