Lowland Way is the suburban dream. The houses are beautiful, the neighbors get along, and the kids play together on weekends.
But when Darren and Jodie move into the house on the corner, they donʼt follow the rules. They blast music at all hours, begin an unsightly renovation, and run a used-car business from their yard. It doesn’t take long for an all-out war to start brewing.
Then, early one Saturday, a horrific death shocks the street. As police search for witnesses, accusations start flying—and everyone has something to hide.
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Candlish / THOSE PEOPLE
Yes, we’re aware that someone’s been killed; of course we are. What a terrible way to die, absolutely horrific. My wife was one of the first on the scene. She’s over the road right now at number 2, Sissy Watkins’s house—Naomi Morgan, she’s called. You’ve probably spoken to her already?
I personally wasn’t here, no. I was playing tennis at the club on the other side of the high street. I must’ve left here at about eight.
Yeah, it all looked normal on the corner when I left. The usual scrap heap. Piles of rubble everywhere, cars wedged in like some crazy 3-D jigsaw. A total disaster zone. Listen, I don’t mean to do your job for you, but you’ll save yourself a whole lot of legwork if you forget the rest of us and go ask him how this happened.
Darren Booth, of course. Who do you think I mean? The man responsible for this tragedy! And while you’re at it, maybe you should find out from the council where they’ve been while all of this has been going on, eh? If you ask me, they’ve been completely negligent these last few months. These budget cuts have gone way too far and all it takes is one character like him and suddenly we’re living in the Wild West.
My relationship with him? Mutual hatred, I would say. I recognized his type straightaway. Doesn’t give a shit what anyone else thinks. Uncivilized, basically. I remember the first conversation we had—if you can call it that—the weekend he moved in. He almost came at me with a hammer. . . .
Mr. Ralph Morgan, 7 Lowland Way, house-to-house inquiries by the Metropolitan Police, August 11, 2018
Eight weeks earlier
The first clue that something was amiss that Friday evening was that the parking space outside his house was occupied by a filthy white Toyota so decrepit it was bordering on scrap. Certainly not the vehicle of choice of anyone he knew on Lowland Way.
If you entered the street from the park end, as Ralph generally did when he drove home from his warehouse in Bermondsey, you proceeded along a sliding scale of house sizes—and prices—from pretty workmen’s cottages through narrow three-story terraces to the large detached Victorians at the Portsmouth Avenue end. These were indisputably the best properties, their old brick glowing furnace red in spectacular contrast to the green of the elms that lined the road.
Ralph and his family had occupied number 7 for more than fifteen years, while, right next door at number 5, his brother, Finn, and his family had been in residence for twelve. It was as good as it got, the brothers agreed, and for half the price you’d pay in some parts of London.
Parking was the big compromise. The front gardens were too shallow for off-street parking and the street bays were unrestricted by the council, which effectively meant a free-for-all. Hence the occasional intruder.
Nosing past the Toyota, he became aware of his windscreen blurring. It took him a second or two to register that the wall of number 1 was being smashed to smithereens by some barbarian workman, a dust cloud drifting into the road. Nearby, a white panel van hogged the spaces of two cars, which explained the parking disruption.
“What the hell . . . ?” Ralph pulled over, wound down his window and called to the builder: “Excuse me—what’s going on here?”
The guy didn’t hear him. Under his gray overalls, his physique was unexpectedly slight given the dirt tornado he’d produced single-handedly.
Ralph raised his voice: “Hey! Can you please stop!”
This time, the worker halted, remaining for a second or two with his back to the street, to Ralph’s car, with a stillness that struck Ralph as a little sinister. Then he turned and approached, lump hammer in hand. His face was smeared with dirt, its expression casually defiant.
“Can I ask who hired you to knock down this wall?” Ralph said.
“You can ask what you like, mate.” The accent was standard South London, not Eastern European as Ralph had naturally expected, and the mild tone made Ralph’s own sound peremptory, officious.
“Was it the council? Because they’ve got no right to demolish it. This wall is one hundred percent the property of number 1. I’ve seen the documents with my own eyes.”
Occupying a generous plot next to Finn’s house, semidetached numbers 1 and 3 were the only pair of postwar houses on the street and, set back far enough to allow a short shared drive, the only ones with private parking. The high wall on the corner, all that remained of the original Victorian villa that had been flattened in the Blitz, had in recent years been under threat by the council, who wanted to widen the left turn from Portsmouth Avenue, basically turning Lowland Way into a rat run. Supported by the owner of number 1, Old Jean, the Morgans had led the campaign against demolition—and won.
Since late December, when Jean had passed away, the house had stood empty, the wall forgotten. Ralph had taken his eye off the ball, evidently.
A new thought struck him. “Unless . . . Wait. Is there a new owner? Is that who hired you?”
“There is a new owner, yeah.” There was a malevolent swagger to the way this guy gripped his hammer, Ralph’s open window just swinging distance away. How easily he could bludgeon Ralph’s skull if he chose!
Ralph’s fingers hovered over the window controls. He was experiencing a primitive antipathy toward this person, as if encountering a member of a rival tribe who’d entered his settlement without permission. He jerked his gaze back to the man’s face, tried to size him up. He must be . . . how old? Mid-fifties? He had a large bald patch, pink from sun or exertion, and deep facial lines mortared with dirt—older than Ralph, certainly.
Ralph coughed, the dust catching in his throat. “Can I have his number? I’ll fill him in on the situation.”
“Another time, mate,” the builder said. “I’m in the middle of something here.” And returning to the wall, hammer raised, he smashed it with an unrestrained violence that made Ralph brace in his seat.
Plucking lines from his anger-management tool kit—“Breathe out more than in. . . . Repeat to yourself: you are perceiving a threat that may not be there”—he powered the window shut and reversed down Lowland Way and into the first available space, all the way back at number 19. He was normally very skilled at parallel parking, but this evening it was necessary to make several adjustments before he finally turned off the ignition.
Checking his phone, he saw, too late, a missed call from Naomi, followed by a text:
New neighbor at No. 1, looks tricky! Come straight home and let’s discuss.
Letting himself in, Ralph struggled to reconcile his horror at the wall demolition with the nervous exhilaration of renewed battle.
“You see what’s going on out there, Nay?”
“I certainly did.” Naomi was in the kitchen at the back of the house. The cofounder of a website for mums of preschoolers—“curator, not editor,” she would correct Ralph—she was based at her partner’s live-work unit a twenty-minute power walk away and usually had dinner under way by the time he arrived home (Ralph prided himself on taking over the cooking on weekends). Lean in gray activewear and tall even in black ballet pumps, she looked like a wife and mother in a commercial as she stood at the marble-topped island, tossing the glistening leaves of a salad; as usual, she scooped the cherry tomatoes to the top in the hope of hoodwinking the family’s lettuce haters.
At his approach, she turned, tongs raised. A strand of dark hair—long and smooth, policed regularly for gray—drifted into her eye and she used an elegantly bent wrist to dislodge it. “I’m as appalled as you are, darling—believe me. But it’s too late to save the wall, so there’s no point getting into a row with the new owner tonight. I thought we’d go and introduce ourselves to him in the morning, when the dust’s settled—literally. Find out his plans, stop him from doing anything else crazy.”
As if by his master’s voice, Ralph was soothed. There was a lifetime of confidence in Naomi’s well-formed vowels, the conviction that she would not just meet your expectations but blow them out of the water. “What makes you think this bloke is the owner? I thought he was just the builder.”
“I checked the Land Registry website and it’s showing someone called Darren Booth. I Googled him and found a photo. It’s definitely the guy who’s smashing the wall.” Finished with the salad, Naomi opened the fridge and handed Ralph a beer. Friday was one of their four permitted drinking nights, with the declared long-term aim of shrinking it to two. Though the kitchen doors were fully open to the garden, there were enough appliances humming to obscure any building noise three doors down.
He took his first swallow. OK, so he’d made a mistake; that was not the way he should have handled interaction with a new neighbor. No need to bore Naomi with the details. “There isn’t any preservation order, so I suppose there’s nothing to stop him replacing it if he doesn’t like the style,” he conceded.
This they knew only too well. As a community, the residents took great pride in their street and had gained modest celebrity with Play Out Sunday, their initiative to clear the street of traffic so the kids could play outdoors the old-fashioned way (Naomi’s brainchild; she’d been given an award by the mayor). Aesthetically, however, each household was free to make its own decisions, thanks to the council’s irritating tolerance on building permissions.
“Do we know anything about him?” he asked. “Where he’s come from?”
Naomi began laying out plates and pairing cutlery. “He’s not on Facebook or Twitter, so I don’t know anything personal, but he came up in recommendations for car repairs in Forest Hill—that’s how I identified him. Sissy’s doing some digging. She doesn’t recognize him, but he must be a relative of Jean’s to have inherited the place.”
“I think you’re right,” said Ralph. The house had not been listed for sale and when the neighbors at number 3, Ant and Em Kendall, had rung the solicitor to inquire, they’d been told probate was proceeding at a standard pace—butt out, in other words. “Even in the state it’s in it must be worth seven hundred thousand. There’s no way someone like him could’ve found the money to buy it.”
“Someone like him”: this was rich coming from a self-made man such as Ralph, who grew up on a council estate in Kent, but perhaps his background was also the reason he was qualified to generalize. He understood firsthand the limited routes available for success.
In his case, it was raw talent that had propelled him to his status as sole proprietor of a wholesale business specializing in small leather goods. Manager of a staff of twenty. Owner of a riverside warehouse now worth ten times what he’d paid for it, thanks to the gentrification of Bermondsey in the aughts that made the rise of Lowland Gardens look sluggish.
He was making short work of the beer. “It’s bad news for the Kendalls. The dust is terrible.”
“They’re on holiday, so hopefully they’ll miss the worst of it.” Naomi put on oven gloves and transferred a large Le Creuset casserole dish from oven to table, calling for the kids, who were upstairs in their individual chambers, doubtless getting postschool fixes of their chosen digital poisons. Ralph imagined them with their heads tipped back and eyes half-closed, like the junkies in Trainspotting. (There was no Play Out Friday, evidently.)
“Where’re the dogs?” he asked.
“Tess is walking them for me. I must remember to return the favor sometime.” Naomi pulled a face. “God knows when.”
The kids arrived, lethargic at first but soon outbellowing each other with their news; Libby was twelve, Charlie seven, but the age gap did nothing to temper their rivalry. The subject of Darren Booth was dropped. Naomi didn’t agree with slagging people off in front of the kids; it set the wrong tone. Never underestimate based on appearances, her mother had taught her.
Fuck what anyone else thinks, Ralph’s father had taught him.
Oh yeah, and also, Defend your turf.
As usual, his wife’s instincts were impeccable, Ralph noted with satisfaction. Declaring it tactically smarter to welcome the newcomer as a group, she summoned Sissy and Finn and Tess to join them for the meet and greet.
Finn arrived while Naomi was out delivering the kids to their Saturday morning activities. He entered through the bespoke steel-framed glass kitchen doors that had cost an arm and a leg (“ROI, babe,” Naomi had argued, quoting house prices; she knew exactly how to sweet-talk him). The brothers’ houses had free access to each other at the rear, the fence between the two gardens having been removed when the kids were very young—the removal was, in case anyone wanted to know, completely different from this new guy’s butchery. They’d returfed the communal garden to create a space wide enough for a game of football or badminton, and now their kids were growing up with the equivalent of a small park, instead of a garden, eight miles from the center of London—who wouldn’t feel like a smug bastard about that?
“I’ve come to join up,” Finn said, helping himself to coffee with the strong, oversize hands that reminded Ralph of his brother’s spell laboring on a building site one summer in his twenties. Two years younger than Ralph and arguably more handsome (thicker hair, bluer eyes, whatever), Finn was, however, neither as rich, which everyone said was the most important thing, nor as tall either, which everyone knew was the most important thing.
“Good man,” Ralph said. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this Booth character.”
“Is that what the invader’s called?”
“According to Nay. She’ll be here in a minute. Where’s Tess?”
“Doing the swimming run. She said to go without her.”
No matter. Tess was no pushover, but she didn’t have her sister-in-law’s talent for first impressions, a fact demonstrated when Naomi sailed in, dynamic in bloodred ribbed top and vintage jean skirt, legs still tanned from their Easter holiday in Dubai. Her hair swung free the way Ralph liked it.
“Hi, Finn. Ready for the charm offensive? Sissy says she’ll join us over there.” She swept up the tin of biscotti she intended to give the newcomer. “I’m guessing he’ll invite us in for a coffee.”
I wouldn’t count on it, Ralph thought. This guy wouldn’t know biscotti if they pounded him from the sky in a blizzard.
The child-free window being narrow, the three set off at once. Since the Kendalls had revived number 3 with fresh paintwork and palm-print roller blinds, number 1 had been a drab counterpart to its twin, but the contrast this morning was more pronounced than ever. The wall was completely eviscerated, or, rather, redistributed into a mountain of bricks and rubble on the lawn, and the effect on the house was to make it look far more desolate than when it had been unoccupied. The white van had been moved into the drive, parallel with a ten-year-old Ford Focus parked partially on the grass, and bumper to bumper with a Honda, which hung off the bottom of the drive and blocked the sidewalk. The Honda was raised on a professional-looking hydraulic jack and under its chassis lay Booth, his face just visible.
“Hello again,” said Ralph. “I think we got off on the wrong foot yesterday.” Perhaps it was his choice of words, perhaps the shattered remains of the wall in his peripheral vision, but he had the sudden hooligan impulse to step forward and stamp on the man’s head.
Don’t be a nutter. Breathe more out than in.
“Any chance you could come out from under there for a minute?” Naomi called, pitch-perfect breezy, and Booth duly slid out and sprang to his feet, unsettlingly agile.
Devoid this time of dust and dirt, his features were clearer to see—a bulging forehead and flat boxer’s nose; a relaxed, almost gentle mouth that was at odds with the insolence of his pale-eyed gaze.
Was it insolence, or was that Ralph’s own projection? He wasn’t so egocentric as to not suspect that the others’ instincts might differ from his. They might like him.
“We wanted to welcome you to the street,” Naomi said warmly. “I’m Naomi Morgan and this is my husband, Ralph, and his brother, Finn.”
Booth glanced from Naomi to Ralph to Finn, settling on Ralph. “What is this, the return of the Kray twins?”
Naomi smiled gamely. “They’re not twins, no, but they are next-door neighbors. We’re at numbers 5 and 7.”
Booth screwed up his eyes like this was hard to process. “You’re brothers, living next door to each other?”
“Yes,” Naomi said. “We’re lucky—it’s a very happy arrangement. You’re probably wondering who lives next door to you.” She gestured to number 3 and Booth glanced over his shoulder as if only now noticing his new house had another one attached to it. “Ant and Em Kendall, a lovely couple with a gorgeous baby boy. They’re on holiday at the moment, back next weekend, I think.”
Poor buggers, Ralph thought. “I didn’t catch your name yesterday,” he said. He knew it, of course, but he didn’t want the guy to know they’d been checking up on him like the secret police.
“Well, full disclosure, Darren,” Naomi said, her voice conspiratorial. “It’s disappointing for us to see the wall taken down, because we campaigned to save it three years ago, when the council wanted to widen the road. It was blatant land grabbing, completely illegal.”
“You need to make sure you rebuild on exactly the same boundary. Otherwise they’ll be straight back in there,” Finn advised.
“He’s right,” Ralph said. “That’s why I was so shocked yesterday. I’m sorry if I was a bit abrupt.” He was aware that the apology didn’t sound sincere—it wasn’t—but the sight of Sissy crossing to join them inspired fresh bonhomie: “Ah, Sissy, come and meet our new neighbor, Darren!”
“Morning, everyone,” said Sissy, in her pleasant, unassuming way. She held a bunch of crocuses, hand-tied with green ribbon. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Darren. I see you’ve already been busy. . . .”
Destroying a historic part of our street, Ralph finished silently. To him—to all of them—Sissy was a touchstone of old-school decency. Solidly built and direct of gaze, she always kept her silver-streaked hair pinned from her face as if to display the full force of her integrity. Today she was dressed in a well-pressed skirt and blouse, which likely meant she had B and B guests, as she often did at weekends. Breakfast must have been served by now and the guests packing or already on their way. Lowland Way was wide, wide as an avenue, but Ralph didn’t envy her the direct view she had of the rubbish heap Booth had created in less than twenty-four hours.
“Are you related to Jean?” she asked Darren.
“She was my mum’s half sister. We weren’t close.” Even though it was Sissy who’d asked the question, Ralph noticed that Darren eyed him when he answered.
“She was a lovely lady,” Sissy said. “I’m sorry for your loss. Are you new to the area? Where did you live before?”
Again, he directed his response at Ralph. “Loughborough Estate.”
Quite an upgrade, then: the Loughborough Estate was a few miles north and not without its share of crime and deprivation.
“Is it just you or do you have a family?” Naomi asked.
“Just me and my other half.”
“Is she in? Busy unpacking, I expect. I’d love to give her these.” Sissy raised the flowers. “They’re from my garden.”
“She’s still in bed, I think,” Darren said.
Ralph didn’t need to look to know that both Sissy and Naomi would be suppressing raised eyebrows at this. It was ten thirty; the families on the street had been up since seven.
“This house has got so much potential, hasn’t it?” Naomi said. “Seventies houses are really in vogue right now. Have you had an architect in?”
“An architect?” Darren sniggered, scornful, as if she’d suggested getting the Historic Royal Palaces people in to advise on his moat. “I’m doing all the work myself, love.”
All the work?
“That sounds ambitious.” Naomi cocked her head. “Have you applied for permission to extend, then? I don’t think I’ve seen the notice up.”
Ralph smirked. Nobody did it better than Naomi, that easy reminder that there were rules (even in this council) and they’d all get along just fine if he remembered to follow them.
Darren shrugged. “Need to have a proper look at the place first. New bathroom for starters, and the roof needs fixing.”
Neither of which required permission, Ralph knew.
“What d’you do for a living?” Finn asked.
Darren gestured to the tools at his feet. “I’m a mechanic, aren’t I?” As if it were a totally moronic question.
Ralph remembered what Naomi had said about the repairs recommendation and his gaze swept past the three vehicles in the drive to a Peugeot parked in the street, its bonnet open: if that was Booth’s as well, that made five including the van. Five! And maybe the dirty Toyota, too.The van was presumably a repository of tools, though Ralph stopped short of opening the doors and inspecting its contents. “Where’s your garage based?” he asked; then, when there was no response: “You’re not thinking of working from here, are you?”
Darren looked from brother to brother with the same mocking expression as before. “What is this, the Spanish Inquisition?” But Ralph knew a deflection when he heard one. You needed a license to run a business from residential premises and he had a strong hunch this guy didn’t have one.
He met Darren’s eye. “So, these vehicles are all for your personal use, are they? All taxed and insured?”
“Ralph,” Naomi said mildly, “we don’t want to jump to—”
“Keep your fucking nose out, mate,” Darren snapped at Ralph, interrupting her, and there was a collective intake of breath.
“I’m really not sure that’s how you want to be speaking to your new neighbors,” Ralph began, and he felt his wife’s fingers on his arm, steering him backward. As if in counterbalance, Finn took a pace forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with his brother.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll love it here,” Naomi told Darren, as if the scene had not taken an unpleasant turn. “We’d love you and your wife to come over for a drink sometime—wouldn’t we, boys?”
“Yeah,” Ralph said, though to his knowledge no man of Booth’s charmless ilk had ever crossed the threshold of number 7, not unless he’d come to read the meter.
Having presented the biscotti and flowers, Naomi and Sissy turned to leave. Finn, fixing Darren with an unimpressed last stare, followed them. Only Ralph lingered, he and Darren regarding each other in silent dialogue.
You’ve been warned, Ralph’s stare said.
And Darren’s responded: I see who you think you are, but I know you’re no better than me.
Suppressing a shudder, Ralph retreated. Some of the rubble from the wall had spilled across the shared drive to Ant and Em’s side and he spent a moment or two toeing the stones back across before joining Finn and Naomi on the sidewalk. Sissy was already through her own gate at number 2, rows of bays in tall pots like staff lined up to greet her.
“I have two words,” Naomi told the brothers as they walked back.
“What?” Ralph said. “Complete twat?”
Loud enough, maybe, for Booth to hear.
“No,” Naomi said. “Open mind. And don’t even think about going near those cars. I know what you two used to get up to back in the day.”
The brothers had done their share of keying cars and letting down tires as kids, edited highlights of which Ralph had shared with his wife. She was happy to joke about juvenile delinquency, sure, but there was no question she’d have been repelled if she’d known him growing up. If she’d looked at him at all it would have been with pity, perhaps while helping in the community as part of her Duke of Edinburgh’s Award or whatever. Lucky they’d met in their twenties, then, when Ralph was a reformed specimen, already twice promoted by a big importer based in Battersea and researching start-up costs for his own business. He’d flat-shared in Clapham with a young colleague and barfly, and Naomi had been among the many attractive female graduates who’d gravitated to the area’s drinking holes in the late 1990s.
Back then, they wouldn’t have cared about someone like Darren Booth; they wouldn’t have cared about old walls or cars being repaired in neighbors’ front gardens.
Well, they cared now.
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. Family life on Lowland Way has been carefully curated and protected by the residents. How justified is their opposition to Darren and Jodie, whose unwillingness to cooperate is clear from the outset?
2. There is a class war raging on the street; which characters are aware of this? Do any of them recognize their own snobbery?
3. The central relationships are between the Morgan brothers—Ralph and Finn—and their wives, Naomi and Tess. How do rivalries and concerns about status complicate their predicament?
4. Ant and Em Kendall are particularly troubled by loud music and the nuisance of building work. How understandable is it that, instead of supporting each other, they turn against each other?
5. Ralph Morgan describes the mood of the street to the police as “the Wild West.” How quickly do communities break down, even for those who consider themselves highly civilized, when authorities do not intervene?
6. Were you surprised by the identity of the perpetrator of the first death on the street? Does he or she atone sufficiently?
7. Surveillance is a key issue in the book. Are we ever truly free of others’ eyes? What does privacy mean to you? Does it even exist in our society now?
8. How does the presence of the two detectives unsettle the residents? Does the threat of arrest cement alliances or cause new fractures?
9. How do you think the police investigation will progress in light of the events of the final chapters? Is there further justice to be done?
10. Have you ever experienced a “bad neighbor” problem? If so, how did you resolve the issue?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Too confusing at times. It seemed as though the writer kept changing the plot. Not really knowing what direction to take. It had a good plot. But was not written well
Lowland Way is the perfect place to live, according to those who live there. With the beautifully cared for homes, neighbors who get along, kids who play together and an active community network, it’s a relaxing refuge from a hectic, stressful world. Then one of the neighbors passes away and her nephew inherits her property. And life on Lowland Way becomes a very different story. What would you do to protect your property, your family and the safety of your children? That’s the question Lowland Way inhabitants must now ask themselves. Who can help them—the council, the police, the families themselves? And when tragedy strikes, what is the recourse? The style of the story takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s worth the effort. Each section begins with an individual resident’s police report and flashes back in time leading to tragedy, moving forward to the present. Those People reveals how each resident reacts to those they consider interlopers in their community and each one has something to hide. But who was plotting murder?
This novel was many times funny, though it was not meant to be. The self-absorption and narcissistic nature of most, if not all, the characters make this a sort of parody of the situation. The character development and the clear agenda each one has feels very color-by-numbers and, even though they are one-dimensional, they are very realistic and relatable. The concept is novel although the plot is a bit discombobulated. I enjoyed the thoughts and feelings this book evoked in me perhaps more than the book itself. The exploration into the human condition and how the relationships begin to break down was fascinating.
This book was a bit hard to get through. I stopped reading it several times in favor of other titles. It moved very slowly, but by the middle, it had picked up and I breezed right through it. I thought there were far too many characters thrown in. It was difficult to keep track of who was who. Darren and Jodie are new neighbors who immediately do not get along with the current residents. Loud music at all hours of the night, cars parked in the road, etc. Tragedy happens, and everyone is a suspect. I thought that by the time it picked up, the "whodunit" aspect was quite interesting. Overall, though, the story took way too long to get to the point. I'd like to thank NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book. in exchange for a fair, unbiased review.
Those People is an interesting story about neighborhood dynamics. Do you like your neighbors? Imagine a little community/neighborhood who get along fairly well and like each other most of the time. Now, throw a new neighbor into the mix. This one is not liked by the community. As in, "I despise those people who live down the street." Would you make a conscientious effort, with your neighbors, to oust these undesirables? Would you just try to ignore it, and let it be? This is a complex story that addresses relevant issues about free will, neighborhood dynamics and ethics among everyday people. It's much more than it appears to be on the surface. I enjoyed the story. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Lowland Way is London's suburban paradise. An up and coming neighborhood with swiftly rising house prices, it's idyllic charms are about to be shattered when Darren and Jodie move in. They scoff at the social rules of the street and do as they choose, creating havoc among the residents. Will it be enough to make someone want to kill them? While I loved Our House, also by Louise Candlish, this wasn't quite as suspenseful a read for me. The pacing was a bit slow at times and the ending lacked the drama that I had anticipated. Having said that, the characters were fascinating. The frustration felt by the neighbors was palpable. I could envision myself in their shoes and could sympathize with with them, even if I didn't agree with their actions. I love how the author creates characters that are, for the most part, unlikable, but are also recognizable for their traits we can see in people we know or in ourselves. Overall, an enjoyable book but not an all time favorite. Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for the advanced copy given in exchange for an honest review.
Author Louse Candlish asks readers to contemplate this question: "Could you hate your neighbor enough to plot to kill him?" Lowland Way is a suburban dream street upon which to live. The houses are beautiful, all of the neighbors get along, and the kids play together on weekends. They've even set up a program, "Play-Out Sunday," closing the road every Sunday so that the neighborhood kids can play in the street together. Darren and Jodie move into the house on the corner after Darren inherits it from the elderly previous resident. They don't fit in and don't demonstrate any desire to do so. Darren blasts music at all hours with no regard to the fact that the next door neighbors have an infant. Additionally, he begins renovating the property, setting up scaffolding, and appears to be running a business, selling used cars from the front yard. To top it all off, Darren and Jodie are rude and dismissive when the neighbors attempt to lodge their various complaints with them. The neighbors grow increasingly angry, frustrated, and impatient with Darren and Jodie. And then a tragic death occurs on Darren's property. It shocks the neighborhood. The police begin investigating -- interviewing everyone who lives on Lowland Way -- and accusations, suspicions, and tempers flare. Candlish takes readers into a seemingly idyllic neighborhood. However, the facade of perfection cracks quickly and easily when Darren and Jodie arrive. Her intriguing characters include two brothers who live next door to each other, a young married couple with the aforementioned baby, and a divorcee who is trying to hold onto her son by converting her home into a bed and breakfast. Candlish illustrates the fragility of the status quo and how a sense of entitlement can cause otherwise decent people to behavior irrationally in order to protect their territory and their way of life within it. As the police investigate, it becomes clear that everyone is a suspect -- everyone had a motive -- and each neighbor reacts accordingly. Tensions escalate further when, in the aftermath of the crime, nothing changes. Candlish relates the story from the perspectives of the various inhabitants of Lowland Way in alternating chapters, skillfully keeping readers guessing as to who merely thought about taking matters into his or her own hands . . . and who actually did. Candlish presents unflinching portraits of people who desperately want their lifestyle to remain unchanged and might be willing to take any steps necessary to ensure that "those people" -- the interlopers who have disrupted their peaceful, predictable existence -- suffer appropriate consequences for their nonconformity. Her cast of characters are multi-layered and fascinating, but each is also wholly unlikable in his/her own way and for myriad reasons. The story progresses at a steady pace to a conclusion that is not unexpected but comes about in a thoroughly surprising fashion. Those People is both entertaining and thought-provoking, and would make an excellent choice for book clubs because its themes lend themselves to discussion. Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book.
I enjoyed the book, but only gave 3 stars because of the ending. Ending was stupid. Leaves you hanging.
Lowland Gardens is an oasis within the city of London - nice houses, friendly neighbors, and the recipient of a community award for their “Play Out Sunday” where the street (Lowland Way) is closed to traffic and the kids take over and play. But when the owner of 1 Lowland Way passes away and her heir moves in, everything changes. Darren and Jodie will not follow the unwritten rules of the community - playing loud music at all hours, running a used-car business from the home, and a mess created by their renovation project. Their neighbors, Ant and Em at #3, brothers Ralph and Finn and their wives at #5 and #7, and Sissy across the street at #2 are up in arms without a plan to bring the new owner into line. And when a guest is killed in a terrible accident, the police investigation rattles the residents even more. Everyone has their secrets, and these secrets will change the neighborhood and the relationships in each home and in the neighborhood. Rating this book was very difficult for me. There wasn’t a character in the book that I liked (even the one I thought I liked turned out to be unlikeable!) but the plot line was intriguing which kept me reading. And, spoiler alert, the ending was less than satisfactory. Thank you to Berkley Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to review the ARC of this book.
Those People, by Louise Candlish centers around a somewhat snobby English neighborhood and how things deteriorate once new obnoxious neighbors move in. While the premise was interesting, I expected much more, especially having read the the author’s earlier novel, Our House. The neighbor’s antics are repetitive and predictable, all the characters are unlikeable and annoying, and the only saving grace is the twist at the very end of the book. If you were hoping for a good follow up to Our House, this isn’t it. Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.
Have your neighbors ever driven you completely insane? Have you ever shaken your head when you looked out your window and wished the people next door would just sell their house and leave? Have you ever logged onto your neighborhood Facebook page and wondered how the heck people can be so ridiculously self absorbed? Welcome to Louise Candlish's Those People. This one is about a quaint little suburban street in the UK where everybody gets along. The neighbors are all friendly and happy. The kids play in the street every Sunday. The women and men congregate in their yards and everything is lovely. Until Darren and Jodie move in next door and all hell breaks loose. Think your typical loud, obnoxious, inconsiderate, awful neighbors who are so unpleasant to live next to that you question whether or not you should put a for sale sign on your front lawn. So the book is about these awful neighbors and somewhere in there is a murder mystery or two (but I won't tell you much about that because it will give away half the fun). I really enjoyed the concept of this book. I think we can all relate to having a neighbor or two that are not our favorite people. This one had me thinking of Investigation Discovery's popular TV show Fear Thy Neighbor. The way that Louise Candlish unraveled the first half of the story was crafted wonderfully. She gave little snippets of information away at the right times, giving enough to keep me hooked while not revealing everything at once. However, right around the halfway point I started to slightly lose interest. The story slowed WAY down and seemed like it dragged on forever. I must say that I wasn't entirely surprised by the "whodunit" in the end and felt like there was a really long and drawn out series of events to get there. There was a whole cast of characters in this book and my impression is that they were put there as red herrings to throw you off the scent and place suspicion on other characters. But in the end I found myself feeling as if those characters felt a little unresolved. Given how drawn out the rest of the story was, the ending felt a bit rushed in the sense that I was looking for a little more closure, especially with those secondary characters. Overall, this book was just okay for me. I struggled with whether I wanted to give it 3 stars or 4 stars because there was a lot about it that I really enjoyed. But at the end of the day, as a complete package, I found myself leaning closer to 3 stars. I have a feeling this one will still be a popular read this summer so definitely check it out for yourself. -I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Louise Candlish, and Berkley Publishing for the opportunity to review.-
A domestic, neighborhood mystery with multiple deaths, a cast of unique characters, and more below the surface of each person than at first meets the eye. In Those People, Louise CandlIsh takes us behind the doors of neighbors who live in a seemingly ideal near London neighborhood. Lowland Way is a suburban neighborhood that most middle class and above families would seek out, and those of means below would look at through jealous eyes. Candlish introduces readers first to Ralph Morgan, one of the brothers who lives with his family next to his brother and his family. He and his wife are the more affluent and alpha couple of the two families. The wife of brother Finn, Tess, often feels left out and dismissed by her husband and his brother, but she tries to hide it while it constantly simmers just under the surface. Another set of neighbors, Ant and Em live adjacent to the house that has just been inherited by Darren Booth, a blue collar working man who sees this new place as a chance to raise his status in the world, as well as pad his bank account with a business idea. He and his girlfriend Jodie stand out in this neighborhood where everyone else tries to blend in. Across the street from Booth is Sissy, a widow who is trying to contain her expenses by running a Bed and Breakfast. As Booth begins parking three to five or more cars in his yard and along the narrow streets, neighbors begin resenting him. Booth plays thrash and heavy metal music at high levels when the rest of the neighbors are trying to sleep. He elects to erect used and decrepit scaffolding in front of his house, he tosses his cigarettes and beer cans wherever he is, he dresses in old clothing, he struts around without a shirt on at all, he calls the neighbors unsavory names when they ask him to cease an action for which they disapprove, and he doesn't seem to care about bit that he doesn't fit in. So what? We've all had those rough neighbors, right? But has anyone been murdered on the new neighbor's doorstep? But have you ever carried out a covert operation meant to hurt or maim the unruly neighbor? Have you ever set out with a plan to take care of a neighbor once and for all? The most intriguing aspect of this book, for me, is the way the characters are all faulty humans with layers of both good and bad that can crop up at unexpected moments. No one is perfect, in fact, all are fare from that. So who committed the first murder, or was it an accident? Who killed the second victim, or was it an accident? With touches of Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, and Rod Serving, CandlIsh has earned a place on my 'must buy' authors' list. Candlish is a genius in presenting setting or character information that seems unimportant or unremarkable and later using it to provide a twist of irony that neatly ties up some loose ends. My rating is a solid 5 out of 5, and this is a book I highly recommend!
3.5 Stars THOSE PEOPLE.......WHAT A NIGHTMARE! If you prefer flawed, unlikable characters, you've come to the right place. The setting is South London on an exclusive street with homes averaging in the high six figures and neighbor's who follow the rules of the council and politics of the people....until Darren Booth and company move in. Disruption is immediate as ear-piercing music blares.....the used car business of junk-mobiles makes its appearance, and umpteen unfinished home renovations result in a new "apocalyptic landscape". Told from alternating voices, we meet all the neighbors, discover their relationships, some chilly, others competitive....even conniving, but all are in agreement that the newbie neighbor from hell must go. Meetings are held, options discussed, but all are not privy to each plan of action. And then there's a shocking accident....tempers flare and hatred grows. Something must be done.... Decent "psycho" mystery....albeit a bit wordy and slow going. (for me) ***Arc provided by Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review***
Having enjoyed Louise Candlish's last domestic thriller, Our House, I was equally impressed with this new one. Set amongst neighbors on a London street, it delightfully skewers the pretensions and prejudices of its middle class residents. When mechanic Darren Booth and his partner Jodie move into the gentrified Lowland Avenue, he causes a terrible stir. Building work, loud heavy metal music, noisy parties, dodgy scaffolding, and his cars taking up all the parking spaces on the road are just the start of the neighbors' problems. There's the wealthy Ralph and Naomi, who preside over the street and their next door neighbors, Ralph's brother Finn and his wife Tessa. Their 'play out Sunday' initiative, in which cars are banned so the children can play out in the street is soon abandoned due to Darren's lack of co-operation. There's Ant and Em, Darren's neighbors, who are driven crazy by his activities, particularly as they have a young baby to look after. And there's Sissy, who lives across the street and soon finds her B&B is in trouble as customers are put off by Darren's building work and noise. Halfway through the novel, something shocking happens - but is Darren really to blame? An gripping read, as much for the machinations between the different families on the street as for the underlying crime mystery.
The blurb does describe what the book is about and would prompt you to believe that you will be reading a thriller. Sadly I did not find that to be the case. I would say the book is more of a character study. Once you scratch the surface of those seemingly perfect lives, the secrets and flaws are revealed. I didn’t connect with any of the characters and didn’t really like any of them either. I struggle with this review because it isn’t a bad book and it is well written, but I personally found it rather boring. Not enough tension and suspense to hold my interest.
Ralph and Naomi live on Lowland Way and his brother and his wife, Finn and Tess live right next door. They and their neighbors take great pride in their street. That evening coming home from work, Ralph is shocked to find the new owner of the home on the corner out smashing an old wall that the neighbors had lobbied to keep intact due to its historical significance, The man’s name is Darren Booth. The next day. a few neighbors go over to introduce themselves to Darren and his wife, Jodie. They both are unfriendly and uncouth. In addition, he has five cars. As most people have to park on the street and the parking spots are limited, they see this new neighbor as a real problem looming. Next door to Darren are Anthony and Em and their young baby. They share a drive and a wall so when Darren starts drilling and playing loud hard rock music, Anthony and Em are furious. Talking to Darren simply seems to raise his ire and he becomes even more obnoxious. They soon learn that Darren will be having a car sales business in the yard which is not good at all. So, some of the neighbors try to record him making a car sale. As Darren’s appalling and irritating actions escalate, the neighbors become even more angry and are determined to put a stop to it. This anger also leads to infighting amongst the neighbors themselves. What will it take to make something happen and how far are they willing to go to stop the man? This was an interesting story but I found it hard to believe that the police or city council seemed to have little if no authority to stop Darren and his actions. That’s what made it a bit hard to believe. In addition, the characters all come across as wimps. You can’t treat jerks like Darren like they have the capability to even care what they’re doing. I was on the fence about rating this book but as I know the author is quite good, I decided to give the book 4 stars. Hopefully, her next book will pack more punch. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Lowland Way was the perfect place to live. It was full of families with children who got to play hopscotch and other games in the streets on Sundays when they closed the road to traffic. Everyone got along with their neighbors and enjoyed spending time together. That is, until a new couple moved in. Darren & Jodie are running a used car lot from their home. They play ear-shattering music all hours of the day and night, and their home looks like a monstrosity with all of the shoddy construction going on. Then the unthinkable happens and someone is murdered, and everyone on the street is suspect, thanks to all of the animosity. This book alternates between the storyline and the interviews the police made during their investigation. I don't think there was a single person I didn't suspect at some point. It was a very enjoyable and engaging tale that will keep you guessing at all the secrets until the end.
I enjoyed reading Those People. A story about neighbors gone bad. A twisted tale revealing the true nature of people and how things can go from bad to worse very quickly. I enjoyed the characters and the plot. Looking forward to reading more from this Author. I give Those People 4 stars for its twisted read. I would recommend this book to Thriller Fans. #ThosePeople #Netgalley
Those People by Louise Candlish is a recommended domestic thriller. In Lowland Way the houses are all perfectly maintained and the neighbors all get along - until Darren and Jodie move into the house he inherited. They arrive at the house on the corner lot and immediately begin an unsightly renovation project leaving piles of debris everywhere. Darren is undertaken all the work himself, in between working on the overabundance of vehicles he brought with him to start an illegal used car business from his home. If matters could be even worse, along with all the construction noise they blast heavy metal music late into the night. The stress becomes overwhelming to the couple with an infant who live next door to the noise, and to the older woman who begins to lose her excellent rating, customers, and her source of income at the bed and breakfast she runs out of her home. Adding to the fracas is the truculent, hostile attitude Darren seemingly exhibits to anyone who questions his choices. The beginning of the story is told through flashbacks, and from different character's point-of view, beginning eight weeks previously and leading up to the day an unexpected death occurs. There are police interviews with various neighbors about the death which are included between chapters. This is a slow burner of a novel as the various characters are introduced and the conflict between the neighbors is developed slowly and hidden resentments come to light. Since we know right from the start that an unexpected death has happened, the beginning of the novel consists of looking for clues as we meet all the neighbors and all of the neighbors are discussing various actions to get rid of Darren. None of the characters are particularity likeable and not all of them are as well developed as others. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that many of the good neighbors aren't quite as perfect as they think and that there were underlying problems in many of the relationships before Darren moved in and stirred things up. Many readers who has experienced having challenging neighbors, will feel some sympathy for the neighbors who want to keep Lowland Way looking like an ideal neighborhood, have everyone voluntarily follow their rules, and keep their property values high. The writing is good, although I found the plot a little too slow moving and certain plot elements required setting disbelief aside. The narrative does draw on a common theme that many people can relate to - the "bad" neighbors, "those people," who are disrupting the normal flow of life on the street. Alternating the points-of-view leading up to death worked well, but after the death some of the incentive to keep reading is lost. The final denouement was a surprise, but the lead up to it could have been tightened up a bit to keep the plot moving along at a little brisker pace. This is a solid summer read. 3.5 Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.
Wow! Did I enjoy this one! There was so much to like, I don't know where to begin. The Street where all the characters live is a great neighborhood. The characters who live there are your neighbors and my neighbors, and maybe even nicer people. They are all written as real people in real situations and living with a sense of community. I related to all of them in one way or another. And then....well, the new neighbors. Seems they are not the type that exactly belong in the neighborhood. And so it begins. I really can't get into much detail, but let me just say that everyone has a reason. Everyone has a valid reason. Some maybe more so than others. This is where this book becomes such fun to read. What a hard time I had putting this book down periodically to take care of some task or other! I loved it from beginning to end and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a mystery, a mystery within a mystery, and a look into a nice neighborhood full of ordinary people. My copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher, for which I thank them.
A coveted neighborhood, new neighbors who are trouble, and a terrible accident is where we meet everyone who lives on Lowland Way. We meet the original neighbors of Lowland Way through police interviews as well as the weeks prior to the incident where the neighbors had to put up with loud music, cars being sold like a used car lot, rude comments, and unsafe scaffolding that extended into a neighbor's property. We also meet Darren and Jodi Booth, the new neighbors, who are causing all the trouble and turning the quiet Lowland Way neighborhood into a nightmare. Each chapter was titled with the name of one of the residents and described their interaction with the rowdy neighbors and each other. THOSE PEOPLE did take some effort to continue because the characters were not likeable. Darren was a troublemaker extraordinaire. He turned things around to make it look like it was someone else who caused the accident as well as other incidents and claimed nothing was his fault. He even had the police convinced someone had tampered with the scaffolding at this home and made it collapse. It actually was difficult to believe anyone because the other characters were not living in reality and whined a lot. It took a few chapters to get interesting and realize any one of the disgruntled neighbors actually may have done something to Darren's scaffolding. The style of the book was different and kept me guessing about who caused the accident - was it faulty construction, was it done on purpose to harm Darren but instead backfired and killed someone else? There was a lot of drama going on before the new neighbors arrived and even more now. If you enjoy a slow, drawn out mystery, you will want to add THOSE PEOPLE to your TBR. 4/5 This book was given to me as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Dollycas’s Thoughts Lowland Way is a fantastic neighborhood especially if you have children. Nice homes, good schools, and friendly neighbors. The entire street is closed off on Sundays so that the kids can play in the streets like their parents did when they were youngsters. Those Sundays have brought the neighbors together to support each other. Then the woman at the start of the street passes away. The neighbors are all hoping for a nice family or elderly couple to move in. Instead, they get Darren and Jodie. The first day Darren breaks down a wall the entire neighborhood had fought the council to keep. Then the loud music starts and the cars start to pull in taking up the limited parking on the street and fill Darren’s yard. Trash and debris from a renovation project litter the lot. The Sunday Play-Out has to be canceled when one of the children is hit by Darren moving one of his cars. The police are no help, saying it is a council issue. The homeowners tried to reason with Darren and Jodie, but all that does is make them rachet up their behavior. Things don’t change until someone dies. The crash brought everyone out of their houses. The police finally have to do something, but it is the neighbors who are suspect. Everyone is shocked and their stories don’t add up. Could someone on Lowland Way be a killer?? _____ The story opens just after the horrendous crash that left one person dead and one injured, then it takes us back in time eight weeks to detail what events led up to the crash told from several points of view. What we quickly learn is everything is not as idyllic as it seems, but when “THOSE PEOPLE” move in people band together. Meanwhile, whatever cracks that were already present in the resident’s lives continue to erode. All these characters are flawed and most, not that likable, but they earned my sympathy. Here in the States, police would have stepped in to handle Darren and Jodie. Things that were sending them over the edge just wouldn’t happen here. I also felt the one idea the residents came up with near the end should have been thought of much earlier, avoiding much of the conflict, but that would have eliminated the story. The setting was interesting to me because I remember playing outside with my friends. The same for my children. Sadly that is not the case for my grandchildren. The days of “be home when the streetlights come on” and neighbors keeping an eye on each other’s children are over. This affluent neighborhood did an excellent job of creating a child-friendly environment until THOSE PEOPLE arrived. The drama was high but the pace was a little slow. The complexity of the story was peeled back in layers filled with tension and conflict. I did enjoy the varied points-of-view. It gave an added depth to each of the characters and exposed the interpersonal relationships for what they really were. Even with the unlikable characters, I was drawn into this book. I wanted to know what happened next. With its well-plotted twists, the ending really took me by surprise. In my opinion, I could see a movie made of this story or a television series like How To Get Away With Murder, so easily. The author has written a story with a dark twisted theme many people would enjoy. Note- There is a fair amount of profanity in this book which may put off some readers.
Those People. Louise Candlish. Penguin Publishing Group. June, 2019; pb, 368 pp.; ISBN #: 9780451489142. Lowland Avenue is an upper middle class street in a perfect neighborhood, where the residents get along and cherish the Sunday street rules which ban parking and establish a place where children can draw in the streets, ride bikes, skateboard and all in all play without fear of approaching danger from encroaching transportation. But the peacefulness and perfection are about to disappear. For Darren and Jodi, a young couple, move into the neighborhood. Their noise of blaring rock music at all hours of day and night along with their car business manifest in dozens of cars and vans parked on the lawn and around the street immediately draw the ire and complaints of their neighbors. Efforts at talking out the problem result in the hurling of foul language and angry diatribes. At first there are efforts to band together but it turns out that nothing being done is illegal. But the spreading of the neighborly hate is fast spreading through the internet and yielding some protesting articles in a local newspaper. However, all of this turns ugly very fast with no change looming on a street fast moving toward attitudes that could become very dangerous. Finally, a disaster happens with the collapse of a scaffold for renovations and the death of a resident on the street. Accusations fly and now it’s hard to figure out who is throwing legitimate protests and threats of a response and what turns out to be another death before the end of this riveting but virulently angry novel. What is most amazing is how what starts out as a disagreement quickly destroys the peace of home owners, frays the tempers and marriages of some, and elicits a response that becomes criminal. Astonishing and violent story that doesn’t end soon enough!
No matter how nice the neighborhood is, there are always some of Those People. They are loud, disruptive and have no consideration for their neighbors. Being kind and friendly doesn't help. What can you do? Lowland Way is a great neighborhood and a wonderful, safe place to raise your children. Darren and Jodie move into the corner house. They are rude and unfriendly. They will never fit in. They break all the rules. He is remodeling/ demolishing the house. It needed some work but it looks like a mess that will never be fixed. Now, they are selling used cars from their front yard. This just can't continue. Then one day an unexpected death rocks the street. The police are going house to house looking for witnesses to the tragedy. Who did this? There are secrets every time another house is visited. A thriller that keeps you guessing until the end. I received this book from Net Galley and Berkley Publishing for a honest review.
It’s the type of block that everyone wants to live on. When you live on Lowland Way, you’re one of the privileged few who are protected from the outside by your closely bonded neighborhood association. Until one day, a new neighbor moves in. And those neighbors don’t play by the same rules… I am a big fan of Louise Candlish. Those People is the fourth book of hers that I’ve read and I love that she has such a unique style, voice, and feel to her books that is so quintessentially Candlish. I’d describe her books as neighborhood noir—seemingly peaceful suburban streets where all of the neighbors get along, until one day it becomes clear that those residents aren’t as protected from the outside as they thought. Candlish explores what happens when your suburban oasis away from it all is turned upside down. And most importantly, what happens to seemingly good, stable people when they find out how fragile their lives truly are? In Those People, we are transported to the idyllic street Lowland Way. This street made headlines and were recognized by the city for their efforts to create “Play-Out Sunday”, a day when they close their street to traffic and let the children play out on the street like their parents did way back when. But when a new neighbor moves in down the street, everything may change. Darren and Jodie are not like the rest of the residents of Lowland Way. They play loud music at all hours of the night, they sell used cars from their front yard, and they have no interest in facilitating things like Play-Out Sunday. But when someone ends up dead, the list of suspects is as long as the resident directory! In typical Candlish style, none of the characters are exactly likeable. The pace is fast, switching between narrators and police interviews. We see what each person is dealing with, both in terms of the new neighbors as well as behind closed doors. Candlish always plays with the fragility of a great life. It is so easy to feel protected in a bubble—get married, have kids, climb the career ladder, buy a nice house on a nice street. But everything can change so quickly... I think you’ll find that the new neighbors bring some unattractive qualities to light in these residents, but not necessarily qualities they didn’t already possess. Lowland Way has become a pressure cooker after the new neighbors arrive, and it is only a matter of time until someone—or multiple people—pop off! Thank you to Berkley for my copy. Opinions are my own.