Essie, Fran and Ange are all residents of Pleasant Court. All are mothers, all have annoying (at least at times) partners, all are deeply immersed in the everyday battle that is trying to keep on top of family, household, and all of the things. Other relationships barely get a look in. Something has got to give and what better to pull you out of your own problems – such as dealing with Melbourne’s inclement weather - than the intriguing unknown of a new neighbour. Isabelle Heatherington is a stylish single woman with no one to please but herself. That kind of freedom is just too delicious to contemplate.
Never far from the loving gaze of her loving mother and partner, Essie has triumphantly emerged from the suffocating horror that was her first round at motherhood. Essie’s second daughter baby is easier to deal with than her first was, but it’s still recent enough in the memory of her family that any changes in Essie demeanour are keenly recognized. Essie did after all leave her baby alone in a park once – hard for anyone to forget that entirely. The attention of the friendly Isabelle is rather charming at first but its not long before Essie, Fran and Ange have their suspicions raised. That keen level of interest in what they consider their very boring lives – it just doesn’t seem to be normal.
THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR reinforces the notion that despite being constantly surrounded by people, you can often feel alone. Deep suburbia provides such a huge source of material and is finally in drama fiction being recognized for that richness. There is a lot going on in this book, and it’s a little heartbreaking when you realize that the male characters are largely oblivious to the density in what is going in the lives of their spouses. Husbands and wives are almost living two different paths, one with the thought burden, and one living largely without it.
The mystery element in THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR is on a slow burn but when you grasp the enormity of it, it is enormous. You will be having too much fun following about the three women, recognizing in their struggles just how common these experiences are to all of us. You receive your plot twist in spades, we promise.
A small setting, only a few characters, and plenty of domestic intrigue, THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR is almost a one seating read as once in Pleasant Street, the reader will not want to leave. Domestic noir is definitely having its day and author Sally Hepworth is on top of that for sure.