Author: Alex Marwood
Sphere RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

The Killer Next DoorI shouldn’t have read this late at night. I was asking for an unsettled sleep … and that’s what I got. The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood (author of Wicked Girls) is a disturbing, graphic crime novel that ticked all the boxes for a cracking thriller, but was a bit much for me in some instances. I haven’t read the first Marwood book, so I don’t know if this is her modus operandi or if this one pushed the boundaries further, but either way I was left with more than a few images pre-sleep I could have done without.

Six residents with something to hide live in No. 23, a gloomy, run-down London wreck. A sleazy, bullying landlord presides over the building, upping the rent when he feels like it, watching the residents on camera and entering their homes if he thinks they’re late with the rent. None of the residents like it, but each one feels they have nowhere else to go. Collette is hiding from her ex-boss; Cher has run away from a children’s home; elderly Vesta has lived there for ever and can’t afford the rent elsewhere; Hossein’s asylum application is pending approval; Gerard keeps to himself and plays classical music hours on end; and Thomas is lonely, but a little weird. 

No. 23 is hiding another secret, bigger than any of the residents can imagine. A gruesome collection is hidden in the house … and it belongs to one of the residents. When an accident pushes the six residents into an uneasy alliance, they have yet another secret to hide, and only one knows how far the secrets go. One of them is a killer looking for a new addition to the horrifying collection No. 23 houses.

The Killer Next Door is a fast-paced read that takes readers on an uncomfortable ride to its climax; it’s one of those books that is disturbing and at the same time, hard to stop reading. Marwood does well to set the novel during a suffocating heatwave, which adds to the clammy, uncomfortable tension. Her cast of dysfunctional characters also add to the tension – each one is trapped, whether by circumstances of their own making or not – and so their sense of desperation and hopelessness is transferred to the reader, who wonders why they can’t just leave, but understands that the characters feel they just can’t. I did feel that there were some unanswered questions at the end and it felt a bit rushed as the loose ends (most of them) were tied up. For a crime novel, this one certainly has the required drama and tension, and those who love their pull-no-punches reads are bound to enjoy this. Is enjoy the right word? We’re talking body fluids in drains and flooded floors and … you get the picture (I sometimes wonder how people feel writing this stuff). For me, it was way too gory and some scenes were downright unpleasant … but if gore’s not a problem, give this one a go.

Available from good bookstores and Hachette Australia. This copy was courtesy of Hachette Australia.

Bookish treat: Eat? That’s the furthest thing from my mind after this book!




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