I’ve long been a fan of the television show Without a Trace. The disappearance stories on the show sometimes end in the discovery of a murder and sometimes in the victim being found alive and often one doesn’t know until the very end how close to a happy ending it will be for all involved. So it is with The Neighbor. This tale of a wife disappearing from home is filled with twists and turns all the way to the very end.
The story opens as young teacher Sandra Jones is going through her normal evening routine. Her husband has gone to work, and she is home grading papers and watching over her young daughter. The chapter ends very suspensefully as Sandra hears someone entering the house.
From there, the perspective shifts to Detective Sergeant D.D. Warren. She arrives at work and is briefed on the report of the woman found missing by her husband, Jason, when he returned from work in the early morning hours. D.D. begins to investigate the case and from there it appears that nothing is as it seems in the Jones household.
For starters, Jason Jones’ behavior seems distinctly odd for someone who wants his missing wife to be found. In addition to not calling police immediately after he returned home and discovered his wife missing, Jason also seems suprisingly reluctant to cooperate with investigators. While he won’t answer questions or allow a complete search by police, Jason does immediately provide a list of alibis to police without being asked. Suspicious, much?
However, it’s not so cut and dried. Jason looks guilty as sin, but he’s not the only likely suspect. D.D. and her team soon learn that a registered sex offender on probation lives nearby. His demeanor and story don’t exactly scream “Innocence” to the investigators either, so they have plenty of leads to track in the investigation. It makes for quite a story.
The author’s style is very good. The story jumps between several different characters’ perspectives and this adds to the richness of it. One quickly gets a picture not only of the main kidnapping plot, but also the almost hopeless inner workings of the probationed offender’s mind and a hint of the many bizarre secrets running through the Jones’ marriage.
Unfortunately, while one does a get a feel for the secrets that the Joneses carry, their own personalities and voices often feel a little muted. This makes it difficult to really know them, even as one reads the portions of the book told from Jason’s perspective or from flashbacks of Sandra. In addition, the story weakens a bit toward the end as the author tries tying up the various loose threads with too many things developing too quickly in the plot. Some of the unexpected twists at the end are really well done, but they get a little lost in the mass resolution of plots.
Though much of the violence in the book is described in fairly muted tones, the author does touch on some very disturbing subjects that will be too much for some readers to handle. Even so, The Neighbor is a very unique suspense novel and readers will be kept on the edge of their seats until the very end. Even with my quibbles, it was still an entertaining read and worth a recommendation.