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Those People


Those People

Anyone who has ever lived in a neighborhood --- and that includes just about everyone, doesn’t it? --- will identify at some level and to a certain degree with THOSE PEOPLE. Author Louise Candlish has crafted a pitch-perfect, slow-boil suspenseful domestic thriller that is all but impossible to forget.

The entirety of the book takes place on a single street --- kind of like Stephen King’s THE REGULATORS but with no supernatural elements --- named Lowland Way in a suburb of London. Everyone in the neighborhood gets along, and they even close off the street every Sunday so that the children can engage in free-range play.

"...a pitch-perfect, slow-boil suspenseful domestic thriller that is all but impossible to forget.... No one comes off entirely well here, but that is ultimately part of the dark fun of it."

Everything changes, though, when an elderly homeowner dies of natural causes and her house is sold to Darren and Jodie, “those people” of the title. They become the poisoned candies in the bowl, if you will. Darren runs a car repair and used car lot out of his home --- utilizing the limited street parking --- to the tune of heavy metal music played at a high volume exceeded only by the sound of the machinery he uses for car repair and his do-it-yourself remodeling on his newly purchased semi-detached house.

This causes problems for the family on the other side of their shared wall, the older divorced woman across the street who is attempting to run one of those online-booked bed-and-breakfasts in order to make ends meet, and the Sunday play gatherings, given that Darren refuses to observe the no-traffic rule. He simply doesn’t care that his presence and actions on the street amount to sand in the Vaseline for everyone, and is quick to let his sidewalk critics know in no uncertain terms what he thinks of their criticisms. The police are no help at all since Darren isn’t breaking any laws, other than, perhaps, the uncodified laws of decorum for the street.

Feeling helpless, the residents turn to --- and then on --- each other, both within their own homes and outside of them. The cracks in relationships begin to appear. Individuals start taking matters into their own hands with varying degrees of non-success until the laws of unintended consequences take hold, with disastrous results. Still, many remain undeterred from removing the pox from their midst. Then a plot is hatched. Actually, several are, which result in a full-fledged and extremely unfunny amateur hour. When the dust finally settles and the smoke clears, nothing is the same, for better and for worse.

Candlish structures THOSE PEOPLE in an interesting manner, ping-ponging the narrative of the first half of the book between the present and the past as she describes prior events while moving slowly toward the present day. She introduces her cast of characters through a revolving door of changing perspectives. This allows us to learn more about the other characters, as well as good old Darren and Jodie, who never really get their turn with the megaphone until things are settled.

No one comes off entirely well here, but that is ultimately part of the dark fun of it. And if you feel that you would be better served by living neighborless on a mountain after reading this book, I daresay you wouldn’t be alone in that attitude.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 21, 2019

Those People
by Louise Candlish