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Kia Abdullah's Top 5 Suburban Thrillers

Posted on 27th July 2023 by Mark Skinner

If you think you've got nightmare neighbours, you should count yourself lucky that things don't escalate to the nerve-shredding level that they do in Kia Abdullah's pulsating domestic thriller Those People Next Door. In this exclusive piece, Kia picks her top page-turners where darkness and duplicity lurk behind the immaculate hedgerows and net curtains of suburbia. 

When I was eight years old, I got caught up in the excitement of the World Cup. I drew a picture of the England flag and stuck it in my living room window. To me, it was an innocent symbol of support, but when my father came home, he tore down the flag in a panic. “Don’t ever do that again,” he told me. “We’ll get a brick through our window." 

I was too young to understand that my father – a Bangladeshi immigrant to England – saw violence in that flag, long used as an emblem by far-right groups in Britain. That memory came to me years later when I left multicultural London for a small rural town in Yorkshire. One morning, a neighbour posted a flag through my letterbox with an invitation to a street-level singalong to celebrate the anniversary of VE Day. I joined in awkwardly and wondered: what if I had refused? And the idea for Those People Next Door was born. 

Seemingly-perfect neighbourhoods are fertile ground for thrillers. There is something uniquely claustrophobic about a suburban setting: the false cheer, the forced sense of community, the relentless pressure to conform. Done well, the suburban thriller can be just as chilling as horror. Here are some that I have read and admired. 

All That's Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien

Journalist Ky Tran receives a phone call that breaks her life apart. Her brother, Denny – smart, sweet, guileless Denny – has been brutally murdered inside a busy restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta. There were plenty of witnesses, so surely the killer will be easily collared. When Ky returns home for the funeral, however, she learns that the police are at a loss. Each of the diners in the restaurant that night claims that they saw nothing. Who are they all protecting and why? This suburb isn’t upscale like the others but is just as cloistered, and Ky struggles to find any answers. Part gripping mystery, part portrait of trauma and displacement, All That's Left Unsaid was my book of the year in 2022.

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A compelling murder mystery that also has profound things to say about the bonds of community and collective silence, Lien's debut is an unforgettable read.
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Watching You by Lisa Jewell

Melville Heights is a coveted row of colourfully painted Victorian villas that sits on a hilltop in Bristol. Home to doctors, lawyers and academics, it’s not the sort of place in which Joey Mullen could normally afford to live. Luckily, after returning to England from some time abroad, she’s welcomed into her brother’s home so that she and her new husband, Alfie, can find their feet financially. Soon after arriving, Joey develops a crush on – and then an infatuation with – her married neighbour Tom, the local school’s new headmaster. Her interest doesn't go unnoticed and tension begins to simmer in the neighbourhood. When it explodes into murder, Joey is the prime suspect – but as the police investigate, it becomes clear that every family in Melville Heights is harbouring a secret. Lisa Jewell, an expert in misdirection, is on stellar form in Watching You.

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The bestselling author of The Family Upstairs delivers another incredibly tightly-plotted page-turner where a handsome stranger stirs up dangerous obsession in a newly-wed woman.
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The Whispers by Ashley Audrain

Troubled mothers are once again on trial in The Whispers, the follow-up to Ashley Audrain’s phenomenally successful The Push. This time, it’s career woman Whitney Loverly that has the neighbours whispering. At a garden party hosted by Whitney, guests hear her screaming at her 10-year-old son, Xavier, through his bedroom window. Months later, Xavier falls through that same window, into a coma from which he may never recover. Whitney sits distraught at his bedside, but questions begin to circulate about why and how Xavier fell. Was it really an accident, or does it reveal a certain darkness beneath his mother’s polish? A clever, unsettling novel that delivers a sucker-punch ending.

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Mining the dark side of motherhood and community, this brooding psychodrama from the author of The Push tracks the devastating ripple effect from a tragic accident.
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The Therapist by B.A. Paris

Alice, a freelance translator, and her partner, Leo, have just moved to The Circle – an exclusive gated cul-de-sac of 12 London homes. Alice is keen to meet the neighbours and invites them for drinks in the garden. Things seem a little off and Alice soon learns that her home’s previous resident – Nina, a therapist with the same name as her own dead sister – was brutally murdered in the house. What’s more, Nina’s husband, Oliver, killed himself when arrested for the crime. Alice finds herself inexorably drawn to the mystery of what happened to Nina. As she gets closer to the truth, she begins to suspect everyone in The Circle – a dangerous thing in a community that likes to pretend it’s perfect.

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A dream house in an exclusive neighbourhood turns into a nest of nightmares for its new occupants in this nerve-shattering slice of psychological suspense from the bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors.
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The Family Across the Street by Nicole Trope

Josh and Katherine West are a perfect fit for Hogarth Street, the pretty tree-lined avenue where everyone wants to live. Their five-year-old twins are perfectly charming and their lawn is clean and neat. But soon the neighbours start to wonder: why don’t the Wests come to any backyard barbecues? Why do they brush off generous offers to babysit? And why, when you knock on their door, do they shut you out instead of inviting you in? Set in Sydney, Australia, on one of the hottest days of the year, The Family Across the Street takes the febrile atmosphere of a neighbourhood on edge and ratchets up the temperature.

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The author of The Truth About the Accident serves up another impeccably plotted psychological thriller, as a new ‘perfect’ family moves into the exclusive neighbourhood of Hogarth Street – with dramatic consequences.
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