“Things were far better watched from a distance….When you watched too closely, you saw things you didn’t want to see.”
Three years ago Pleasant Court resident Essie Walker left her daughter at the park and went home. She quickly came to her senses, retrieved her daughter and sought treatment for postpartum depression. In the present day Essie has convinced her husband to have another child, Polly, and she is doing much better this time around. When a single woman with no children, an oddity in their small community, named Isabelle moves in Essie becomes a bit obsessed and begins to spiral. Essie’s neighbors, Fran and Ange (the names in this novel are really random), are doing their best to be supportive but they have their own problems.
Isabelle tells her new neighbors she moved to Melbourne for work but it comes out that she does not have a job in the area (or at all) but Ange, her real estate agent, is too wrapped up in her husband’s possible infidelity to pursue the issue any further. The perspective shifts between all four women and Essie’s mother, Barbara, but Essie and Isabelle’s story lines are the strongest overall. Honestly Ange and Fran could have remained periphery characters without altering the twist at the end. Their stories seemed shoehorned into the main plot in order to explain why they were too preoccupied to notice Essie forming an unhealthy attachment to the new neighbor. All the male characters are afterthoughts.
Overall this is a perfectly serviceable thriller (of sorts) and was well suited for lounging around the hotel during my vacation last week. I wonder if I may have been tougher on it because I just finished reading Gone Girl. Have I ruined all female-centric thrillers for myself for the foreseeable future? I hope not.
To be fair The Family Next Door does have a pretty good twist for a beach read. But it’s still just a beach read.