The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood, narrated by Imogen Church

I was surprised to learn that The Killer Next Door wasn’t Alex Marwood’s debut novel, and even more surprised to discover that Marwood is a pseudonym for established novelist/journalist Serena Mackesy. It’s not that I’d ever heard of or read anything by Mackesy, more that there’s a roughness to The Killer Next Door – an unpolished first-draft feeling that I didn’t get from The Wicked Girls or The Darkest Secret, both of which I enjoyed more than the usual disposable thriller.

The Killer Next Door wasn’t a bad read, but it did lack an essential plausibility which made it impossible to suspend disbelief. So many of the characters are busy planning or committing murders that it quickly becomes daft. The only character I became attached to was Cher, a fifteen year old runaway mixed up in the deadly goings-on at 23 Beulah Grove. Imogen Church’s narration excels when it comes to Cher’s Scouse accent, and for the most part is perfectly fine, but good lord her male voices are terrible. They all sound slow and low, like every man in the book has taken a blow to the back of the head and come away intellectually challenged. Cringe.

There’s a lot of graphic description here of some horrifying events – a brutal rape, the preservation of corpses, murders and graphic masturbation. I’m not squeamish in theory, but the sheer amount of unflinching awfulness felt a bit over the top. Honestly, I’ve enjoyed Marwood’s other thrillers and will probably read whatever she puts out next, but The Killer Next Door just wasn’t up to her usual standard.

[Read from 26-28 September 2016]

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