Those People is the second novel by British author Louise Candlish. It’s the story of a once idyllic London neighbourhood that is turned on its head when a boisterous couple moves in, setting a motion a string of tragic events.
Lowland Way, located in South London, is the kind of area people dream of moving into. The houses are luxurious. The families all seem to get along beautifully,and children are permitted to play outside unattended. Surely, those who dwell there must be living picture perfect lives.
When Darren and Jodie move there, cracks begin to appear in Lowland Way’s perfect façade. It’s clear from the very beginning that they do not fit in, and, even worse, they don’t want to. Loud music can be heard late into the night, old, broken-down cars are parked in the driveway and even on the street in front of the house, and drugs and alcohol are not uncommon. The other residents of Lowland Way try to convince Darren and Jodie to tone things down a bit, but to no avail.
Then, early one Saturday morning, someone is found dead, and accusations begin to fly. Everyone seems to have an opinion about who is responsible for the possible murder, and it soon becomes clear that those who make their homes in this tiny piece of London paradise are keeping some dangerous secrets.
AAR reviewers Shannon and Lisa read Those People and are here to share their thoughts on the novel.
Shannon: Louise Candlish’s Our House was one of my favorite novels of domestic suspense last year, so I was really excited to see she was coming out with something new. Had you read Our House before picking this one up, and, if not, was there something specific that drew you to it?
Lisa: I actually hadn’t. I picked this one up on the strength of its blurb, which sounded rather interesting! I can relate to the nasty neighbor part of the storyline. Have you ever experienced that level of nastiness in your own neighbors? I’ve had dustups and dealt with loud music, but nothing on that level.
Shannon: Fortunately, most of my neighbors have been pretty decent. Apartment living can be a little noisy, but nothing like the characters in this book experience.
Those People is quite different from the author’s previous book in that instead of focusing on one particular couple, it has a large cast of characters, many of whom give us their version of events. I ended up enjoying Our House quite a bit more than this one, but it had little to do with the narrative style. I found the various characters to be quite interesting, and hearing their conflicting beliefs about what transpired really sucked me in. How did you feel about the way the author chose to tell this story?
Lisa: That was my favorite part of the novel. There were a lot of unreliable narrators, a lot of different sides to the mystery, and a lot of different personalities at work.
Shannon: Unreliable narrators are pretty popular these days, and I found the author’s use of more than one of them to be quite an interesting choice. While we’re on the subject of the characters, did you have a favorite? I found myself drawn to Tess. She had her issues, but her insecurities and strong need for autonomy made her one of the story’s most compelling characters.
Lisa: I actually liked Sissy, and felt a little bad for her. I agree that Tess and maybe Ant at least had some layers to them.
Shannon: I felt really bad for Sissy too. She went through some awful stuff. Darren and Jodie were not ideal neighbors, but I sometimes felt the other residents were trying way too hard to find fault with their actions, giving parts of the story a bit of a contrived feeling. Did you also find this to be true, or do you have a different take on the interactions between the two factions?
Lisa: The biggest problem with Darren and Jodie in general is that they’re not very nuanced or layered. By the time the Big Pivotal Incident occurs they’re almost cartoonishly selfish and unaware, to the point of having no softer side nor any human qualities. Darren and Jodie were, in a lot of ways, unable to adjust from apartment living and ‘read the room’, but their inability to do so was cartoonish.
Shannon: I agree with that. Do you think it might have helped if we had seen certain things from their perspective? It’s hard to talk about certain aspects of the novel without giving things away, but I was pretty surprised by the identity of the first person to be found dead. I expected it to be someone different, someone with more of a stake in what was going on in the neighborhood. What did you think?
Lisa: I could sort of see the foreshadowing, but I was expecting it to be someone closer to the scene.
Shannon: From the moment the body is discovered, the story moves quite quickly. The author doesn’t do a lot to anchor the reader in any particular scene, and I found the writing to be pretty choppy.
Lisa: I think that was a natural result of the episodic nature of the book itself – it only started feeling choppy for me towards the last quarter.
Shannon: I was pretty invested in the novel until three-quarters of the way through. I was all set to be wowed by the big reveal, but then things kind of blew up in my face. The build-up was fantastic, but I was completely unimpressed with the way the author chose to wrap things up.
Lisa: The ending actually felt completely unfinished to me – give us closure, author, please! And let’s be honest, on top of it all, the way the book portrays bad neighbor behavior as an ‘evil curse’ within a family was a little bit over the top.
Shannon: I know! I would have loved some closure as well. So, what’s your final grade? Unfortunately, I have to go with a C. The contrived nature of certain aspects of the plot along with the super weak ending make Those People a book I didn’t end up enjoying as much as I expected to.
Lisa: I liked it a little bit more than you and it’s a C+ for me. The book has some taut plotting, and some interesting things to say about class and small town mores, but it had not a single non-cartoonish character and stopped obeying logic toward the end of the book. And the ending is indeed weaksauce to an inexcusable level. Resolve yer plots, authors!