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Louise Candlish Picks Her Favourite Nasty Neighbours
With her suspenseful twisting of the domestic and everyday, Louise Candlish is one of the most acclaimed thriller writers around. Her novels Our House, a former Waterstones Thriller of the Month, and the freshly published Those People have raised the bar for creepy characters in the community, and here she picks her favourite bad neighbours from across the literary spectrum.
I consider myself well qualified to write about bad neighbours. Not only have I – like most of the population – been subjected to them, but also – unlike most of the population – I’ve been one myself. OK, it was the Nineties when I had my stereo dial turned to eleven and my chain-smoked cigarette ends flying from windows, so I tell myself that everyone was a bad neighbour then. But still, I do wish I’d been as mindful of other people then as I am now.
But at least I wasn’t a DIY fanatic. Unlike my next-door neighbour of a few years ago who noisily renovated his house all day and all night for a year. Among his crimes was the eschewing of skips to dispose of his debris in favour of bonfires, which he would leave unattended while he drilled indoors. Deafened, demoralized and choking on the smoke, I found it wasn’t long before I began to fantasize about him electrocuting himself with one of his own power tools.
I suspect some of that impotent fury has found its way into Those People.
Bad neighbours have entertained and terrified us regularly in film and fiction over the years (a shout-out for the underrated 2015 film The Ones Below, in which Laura Birn plays a sweet Hitchcock blonde with unnatural designs on the family upstairs), but I doubt they’ve had such symbolic potency as they do now, in the age of disrupters and deniers, of deep fakers. Diplomacy is dead, it seems. Ask a new neighbour nicely, ‘Would you mind turning the music down, I’ve just put my baby to bed’, and you’d be entitled to expect co-operation. But what if the offender simply says ‘No’? No compromise, no negotiation, just ‘my way or the highway’. Your very own Trump just a few doors down. Well, when that happens, it’s understandable that impulses should turn murderous…
Even the most naïve reader knows not to expect cosy neighbourly relations from the mind of Agatha Christie and alarm bells ring promptly when Madame Daubreuil, next-door neighbour of the murdered Paul Renauld, is found to have recently banked a small fortune in cash. Forbidden passion, changes of identity, blackmail: it’s all happening over the garden fence in this Christie classic set in northern France. ‘Madame is a lady who can keep her secrets,’ concludes Poirot.
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