Tue
Apr 18 2017 3:00pm

Review: Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson

Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson is both cozy and creepy, weaving together the lives, lies, and secrets of three people in a perfectly executed small-town mystery. It is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Novel.

Quiet Neighbors is an intricate mystery buried under intriguing current events that we get to peek at little by little, leaving us thinking that maybe we know what has happened or can guess what is to come—but we never really do. It’s the pull that keeps the pages turning.

I very much enjoy the element of the supernatural, and from the book’s title and haunting cover I envisioned unsettled ghosts getting the living to solve their untimely deaths—or at least something to that effect. But that’s not exactly what this story is about. It’s so much more than that.

Author Catriona McPherson has crafted a wonderfully complex tale intertwining three people’s lives with a village’s sordid history. Each of these three people—Jude, Lowell, and Eddy—have their own secrets and mysteries that will soon come to light, revealing misdeeds and explanations as they try to solve the mysteries that hold them together, to each other, and to the area.

Lowell—with all of his “dear me” and stutters as he tries to be hospitable and think one step ahead but never really gets there—leaves a distinct impression on Jude in the beginning.

And he bestowed on Jude a wide grin, revealing strong, yellow teeth, stained in grey stripes from coffee or tobacco. He was undoubtedly the owner of the fawn cardigan and the hemorrhoid cushion. A tall man, egg-shaped from sloping shoulders and a comfortable paunch, with frizzy, iron-grey hair slicked down and brushed back but escaping its bounds this late in the afternoon and beginning to form a halo around the high dome of his forehead and the double sickle of his roughly shaven jowls. His eyes, bright above extravagant dark pouches, twinkled at her for another moment before he looked down to see what he had saved from falling.

Jude, experiencing a then-unknown crisis, has run away from her London city-life and back to Scotland to Lowell’s cozy, dusty, cramped bookshop. We don’t know then what is haunting her, but her emotions are cleverly crafted to keep us wondering, giving us a glimpse at her raw state.

She had talked about rock bottom for months, always thinking she could feel it, cold and unyielding under her. And then there would be another lurch and another drop and she would tell herself that this time she was there. The funeral. Was there anywhere lower to fall after a double funeral? By that midnight she couldn’t have touched it with her middle finger if she’d stood on tiptoe. Now, in three-day-old clothes with unbrushed teeth, with tears and worse dried into her cheeks, she saw the gateposts for Jamaica House and, cops or no cops, thought she’d passed rock bottom and was on her way up again.

Eddy, a pregnant teenager on her own search, is the sun that Lowell and Jude gravitate to and revolve around.

There’s a poetry to McPherson’s writing, a type of cadence not quite sing song yet invoking a melody unique to its own. She employs an intelligent wit that is found within the depths of the plot and in the dialogue itself. The writing toes the line between literary, at times, and genre fiction seamlessly, showing that she is expertly skilled at her trade.

After finishing this book, I plan to explore more of McPherson’s titles. Her style and ability to spin a yarn stands out. It is easy to see how she’s earned multiple nominations and wins for her work. Quiet Neighbors will not disappoint.

 

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Amber Keller is a writer who delves into dark, speculative fiction, particularly horror and suspense/thrillers. You can find her work on her Amazon Author Page and she also features many short stories on Diary of a Writer. A member of the Horror Writers Association, she contributes to many websites and eMagazines and you can follow her on Twitter @akeller9.

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