6 February 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-409-18149-1 (PB)
Sarah lives in a flat with her teenage son and works in a café owned by
her best friend Kim. She hardly knows anyone in the other flats, and is both
shocked and curious when a body is found in the one below hers, especially when
it turns out that it’s been there as long as she has lived in the block.
Then there’s Laura, who has
lived alone since her father’s death after a long illness and is trying to
piece together some kind of life. She gets a job in telesales and is surprised
to find one of the managers is Tom, who used to be her friend at primary
In Elisabeth Carpenter’s
earlier novels she has never flinched from addressing difficult issues. She’s
offered answers to hard questions like how far can you trust your own family
members? and can a mother’s loyalty be stretched too far? This time she asks another tough one: how well we do we know our neighbours, and
do we bear any responsibility for them?
There are various issues to
be resolved: who lived, and died, in the flat downstairs? How did he (or she)
die? Why did no one realize he (or she) had gone missing? Who is Catherine, and
how does she fit into the story? And who are the mysterious strangers who keep
Sarah is studying journalism
and has a keen eye for a mystery. Her story interweaves with Laura’s attempts
to build a new life, and slowly some answers begin to emerge. Elisabeth Carpenter’s
skill at creating rounded, recognizable characters is very much in evidence, as
is her ability to evoke highly visual settings. Laura is intelligent, and less
socially inept than her upbringing might suggest. Her workmate Suzanne is loud
and on the gossipy side of gregarious. Sarah’s policeman ex-husband is
self-obsessed and borderline controlling.
The flats aren’t luxury apartments,
but they fall short of being seedy and disreputable. Kim’s Kaff is several
notches above greasy spoon. Laura’s workplace is noisy and slightly depressing,
but her flat is neat and comfortable.
The plot goes through some
satisfying twists and turns, and the questions are answered eventually – all
except the biggest one: how well do we really know the people around us? The
result is another piece of quality writing from this award-winning author; it
will make you laugh, cry, and above all think.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Elisabeth (Libby) Carpenter lives in Preston with her family. She completed a BA in English Literature and Language with the Open University in 2008. Elisabeth was awarded a Northern Writers’ New Fiction award and was longlisted for Yeovil Literary Prize (2015 and 2016) and the MsLexia Women’s Novel award (2015). She loves living in the north of England and sets most of her stories in the area, including the novel she is writing at the moment.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.