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The Block Party


The Block Party

Nothing beats the heat like a good old-fashioned block party with your neighbors. From family games to cold drinks and hot gossip, there’s no better place to spend a summer day…unless you live in an exclusive cul-de-sac on Alton Road, where murder will be added to the menu. In Jamie Day’s THE BLOCK PARTY, the elite, wealthy Flauntin’ Altons are about to find out that some of the darkest secrets, scariest killers and worst betrayals are as close as next door.

Picture-perfect Alex Fox is in charge of the annual Memorial Day block party. That means coordinating table cloths, scheduling games, keeping an eye on the tensions brewing between each of the couples from the cul-de-sac, and, of course, imbibing a steady flow of wine. After all, when is it not wine o’clock? But this year, there are more than a few issues plaguing the upstanding citizens of Alton Road.

Alex and her husband, Nick, are watching as their teenage daughter, Lettie, who is forever donned in all black, starts to pull away from them. It’s natural at her age, but Lettie --- an outspoken activist for animals, climate and feminism --- has recently reached a stalemate with her parents after first getting suspended and then announcing her desire to attend the University of Southern California all the way across the country from their small New England town. Nick wants his daughter to learn the value of good behavior, and he has determined that they will not help pay for her education unless she goes somewhere much closer. Although she’s a divorce mediator in her day job, Alex does not hold the same sway in her own household. She knows that Nick and Lettie are no closer to reaching a compromise, which is only pushing their already independent daughter farther away.

"I can safely say that no reader, no matter how well-read in thrillers or suspense novels, will guess the book’s final twists.... This is one block party you’ll definitely want to RSVP 'yes' to. Just don’t stand too close to anyone with secrets to hide."

Just because Alex cannot put her professional skills to use at home doesn’t mean that she can’t use them in their cul-de-sac. Willow, her neighbor and good friend, is currently in the process of divorcing her substance-abusing husband, Ethan…or at least she plans to, as soon as their daughter, Riley, graduates. A former model who became a mother much younger than the rest of the wives of Alton Road, Willow doesn’t seem to have the good sense or support that the other women have. So Alex has made an effort to take Willow under her wing, especially since their daughters are best friends. Or at least they used to be.

Whether it’s teenage squabbles or the pain of growing up, Lettie and Riley are now sworn enemies, but Alex and Willow have not let it affect their friendship. Ethan, on the other hand, is a privileged, smarmy photographer whose family money allows him to do and say whatever he wants. This is why Alex is urging Willow to file for divorce before Ethan wipes out their accounts.

Rounding out the cul-de-sac are Alex’s sister, Emily, and her handsome but adulterous husband, Ken; gorgeous, buxom, single Brooke (who may or may not have murdered her husband); and new residents Samir and Mandy, along with their dark and mysterious son, Jay. Emily and Ken's marriage has been historically rocky, but the two are just settling into a new normal when Samir and Mandy appear. Ken’s interest in Mandy is obvious, as is the fact that the two have met before, although they deny it vehemently.

With tension simmering below the surface of every marriage and interaction, it seems that dysfunction has taken up residence on Alton Road. But it is not until Brooke suggests a game of two truths and a lie at a girls’ night that it becomes obvious just how much the men and women are hiding…from their partners, their neighbors and even themselves.

Alternating between Alex’s point of view and Lettie’s, who is doing some neighborhood sleuthing of her own, trying to plot revenge on her former best friend, THE BLOCK PARTY unfolds over a single year, from one slightly memorable block party to another far more memorable (and murderous) one. Readers are treated to laugh-out-loud, dishy commentary from the town’s Facebook group, where citizens not as wealthy or privileged as the Flauntin’ Altons ponder the goings-on at the notorious block party after sirens are heard racing toward the cul-de-sac.

While the book starts and ends with a murder, first dropping readers right on the scene as the police arrive and then building back up to the big reveal, it is the everyday lives of these not-so-likable, very naughty characters that makes it so much fun. Switching off between the adult and young adult worlds of the cul-de-sac is a clever tactic, as Day is able to show readers things that these individuals cannot see (or at least admit to) while still demonstrating just how self-absorbed they are. The adults are devious with their affairs, endless wine bottles and secrets, but the teens are grappling with the very real issues of opioids, consent and the angst of growing up.

I should point out that the meat of the narrative is slow to start. Day takes tremendous care with worldbuilding but perhaps would have been better off trusting readers to see the cracks forming in the relationships of the Alton Road residents rather than building to the twists so slowly. That said, when the pace takes off, it is unrelenting. I can safely say that no reader, no matter how well-read in thrillers or suspense novels, will guess the book’s final twists.

Rumors always have some truth to them, and when murder hits Alton Road, anyone could play victim, killer or innocent bystander as easily as another. This is one block party you’ll definitely want to RSVP “yes” to. Just don’t stand too close to anyone with secrets to hide.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on July 21, 2023

The Block Party
by Jamie Day