“The Killer Next Door” by Alex Marwood – A Book Review

20893551

How well do you really know your neighbors? Alex Marwood’s second novel takes place in a gentrifying suburbs of London and focuses on the residents of a house that has been converted into some sketchy apartments or “flats.” Each character has his or her own secrets, but one is hiding something much worse — yep, there’s a serial killer in the building. Forced to band together to protect each other’s secrets after an unfortunate accident, they soon discover that someone is not who they seem.

While I had not enjoyed Marwood’s debut novel, “The Wicked Girls” (my review can be found here), I would recommend “The Killer Next Door.” Where the previous novel suffered from a lack of momentum, her second book chugs along at a decent pace, and more importantly – the characters were much more three dimensional and well-fleshed out. Where Marwood really succeeds this time around is with the creation of situation/scenes that seem very believable/vivid. You can clearly picture the dilapidated house and the cast of characters that populate the dank apartments… I shudder just thinking about the accommodations.

Told from various perspectives, the chapters rotate focusing on each of the different characters which gives the reader a well-rounded view of events from multiple vantages (yes, including the killer’s). Though a bit long-winded in some places, I did appreciate that Marwood tried to give each character a solid backstory and perspective versus sticking with the stereotypes of an ensemble cast.

Available for pre-order from Amazon.com and on shelves October 28th, 2014.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher via their “First to Read” program

“Vanessa and Her Sister” by Priya Parmar – A Book Review

22238372

 

"Vanessa and Her Sister" depicts the very complex relationship between Vanessa and Virginia Stephens (later Virginia Woolf). Each is accomplished in her own right, but the sisters are forever locked in constant competition with one another. When Vanessa finds love, it throws off the already unsteady balance between, setting off chains of events that will impact their lives and affect those around them. In my opinion, Priya Parmar paints Vanessa slightly more sympathetically than her sister, but each have their faults. 

Though the novel mostly focuses on Vanessa and Virgina, the cast of characters include notables from the "Bloomsbury" group, including EM Foreseter, and John Maynard Keynes, which was fun. I can't imagine how fascinating it would have been to be a fly on the wall for one of their dinner parties or late night conversation sessions. 

While I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book, what really captivated my attention was the sister's relationship. The author does an excellent job (perhaps a sister herself?), of capturing what exactly it is that draws and keeps sisters together despite their differences. The way Vanessa and Virginia treat each other is nuanced and realistic, which allows the reader to disappear into the story. 

Overall, four out of five stars because I felt there were some issues with pacing and some sections that were a little on the slow side. I did enjoy the way that postcards and telegrams and interspersed between the chapters. I would also have provided a little bit more detail when it comes to the cast of characters for those that are not super familiar with the famous faces of this period. 

Side note: There is also something rather satisfying about the fact that Virginia is only indirectly named in the title. Score one for Vanessa?

Available for preorder from Amazon.com and on shelves December 30th, 2014. 
Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher for the purpose of review.