Tuesday 17 January 2023

Those People Next Door by Kia Abdullah #ThosePeopleNextDoor @KiaAbdullah @HQstories @SarahLundy13 #BookReview


You can choose your house. Not your neighbours.


Salma Khatun is extremely hopeful about Blenheim, the safe suburban development to which she, her husband and their son have just moved. Their family is in desperate need of a fresh start, and Blenheim feels like the place to make that happen.


Not long after they move in, Salma spots her neighbour, Tom Hutton, ripping out the anti-racist banner her son put in their front garden. She chooses not to confront Tom because she wants to fit in. It's a small thing, really. No need to make a fuss. So Salma takes the banner inside and puts it in her window instead. But the next morning she wakes up to find her window smeared with paint.


This time she does confront Tom, and the battle lines between the two families are drawn. As things begin to escalate and the stakes become higher, it's clear that a reckoning is coming… And someone is going to get hurt.

A gripping thriller about nightmare neighbours, Those People Next Door explores the loss of innocence and how far we’re prepared to go to defend ourselves and the people we love.

Those People Next Door by Kia Abdullah is published on 19 January 2023 by HQ. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I found this book was certainly a book of two halves. The beginning is fairly slow, gently easing the reader in, allowing us to become familiar with the landscape; the characters and their back stories, and then about half way through, the pace really quickens. Culminating in an ending that I certainly didn't expect, yet is quite possibly, the perfect ending for this story. If not for the characters!

It's a study in domestic noir, dealing with a small community and how those people who live there deal with each other. There are instances that are difficult to read, quite toe-curling in their hatred and insensitivity, but masterfully done, and really gives an insight to what lots of people have to endure.

Salma, her husband Bilal and their teenage son have recently moved into Blenheim. They moved from their old area to give their son a better chance in life, to try to distract him from the bad influences. It's not exactly the house they wanted, but it's far enough away from their old life to start again. Salma is a teacher and Bilal works long shifts as a chef, his own restaurant had to close after the pandemic. 

The family are invited to a neighbour's BBQ, and whilst everyone appears friendly, there's definitely an undercurrent of tension there. Casual remarks, dressed up as jokey banter, are really quite offensive to Salma, but she's a polite, well intentioned woman and chooses to let it go. When, days later, her neighbour Tom kicks down a political, anti-racist banner in their garden, she again lets it go. However, when she places the banner in her window and wakes to find white paint on the glass, she cannot stay silent. 

What follows is a disintegration of a small community, with people taking sides and Salma and her family feeling that they are not safe in their own home. 

Kia Abdullah excels in relating both sides of this story without prejudice. The characters are allowed their opinion, and the reader's sympathy often shifts from side to side. Not unexpectedly, the dispute culminates in tragedy and the court case is played out so very very well, exposing things that all involved had hoped to keep hidden, and once again, shifting the focus of blame from side to side. 

This is a novel that will make the reader think long and hard about community and how we live, what we say and how our words can tell so much about us. It raises so many questions and is never judgemental.  With an ending that I didn't anticipate and one that made me gasp out loud, this is a thrilling and engaging thriller. Recommended. 

Kia Abdullah is a bestselling author and travel writer. Her novels include Take It Back, a Guardian and Telegraph thriller of the year; Truth Be Told, which was shortlisted for the Diverse Book Awards; and Next of Kin, which was longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award and won the 2022 Diverse Book Award adult prize. Kia has also been selected for the Times Crime Club.

 Kia has written for The New York Times, the Guardian, the Financial Times, The Times and the BBC, and is the founder of Asian Booklist, a non-profit that advocates for diversity in publishing and helps readers discover new books by British Asian authors.

 For more information about Kia and her writing, visit her website at kiaabdullah.com, or follow her at @KiaAbdullah on Instagram and Twitter.

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