With her penchant for writing books about the perils of owning a property, London-based author Louise Candlish is rapidly turning into the Kirstie Allsopp of crime fiction. Like her last novel, Our House, Those People is all about location, location, location and the problems it can create.
In Lowland Way, in the fictional leafy London suburb of Lowland Gardens, everybody gets along famously. They even have a car-free Sunday when the neighbourhood kids can play safely out in the street. All very safe and middle class, but that comes to an abrupt end when a pair of new neighbours arrive on the scene.
Darren and Jodi are just not the sort to fit in. In fact they seem to be going out of their way to make a bloody nuisance of themselves. Suddenly the peaceful idyll is no more and the merry bunch of community-minded pals is transformed into an off the rails set of super NIMBYs.
Now it’s us against them. And the long-standing residents begin plotting to get rid of the cuckoos in their nest. But can the mounting frustrations of these formerly law-abiding citizens really lead to murder?
You bet it can, and as the timeline jerks back and forth, we’re slowly given a behind-the-scenes view of what actually happened on that fateful day, through the police reports compiled during their house to house enquiries. That incessant to-ing and fro-ing means the pace of Those People never settles, and you need your wits about you to keep tabs on who’s who and who did what. It’s frustrating, to say the least.
There’s a fair old cast to sort through too. As well as the aforementioned Darren and Jodi, we have Ralph and his wife Naomi, veritable pillars of the community and leading lights in the ‘Play Out Sunday’ initiative. They’re miffed at Darren running a car business from his home and even more disgruntled when he won’t move his vehicles so the kids can run free on the Sabbath.
Then there are new parents Ant and Em, who have the misfortune to live next door to the newcomers. Darren and Jodi love to play loud music and run power tools late at night and early in the morning, meaning baby Sam is getting very little rest (and neither are Any and Em). Across the way is Sissy, trying to make ends meet by running a B&B from her home. But once the building work opposite gets into full flow, her online ratings drop and bookings begin to dry up. I could go on, but I think you get the picture that everyone has an axe to grind with Darren and Jodi.
The problem is that few, if any, of these characters are likeable, and therefore I found myself losing patience with them and their petty grievances – to the point where I was beginning to feel sorry for D and J. It’s that all-encompassing sense of snobbery and entitlement which begins to jar after a while.
Irritating as Lowland Way is, Candlish deserves praise for creating such a true-to-life portrait of this fictional corner of Little England. The many woes that befall these characters can be found making headlines most days in the Daily Mail and Daily Express, and Those People will strike a chord with anyone unlucky enough to have a neighbour from Hell. In this case, however, it feels too long and drawn out and, ultimately, a wee bit disappointing.
Simon & Schuster
CFL Rating: 3 Stars