I picked up Those People Next Door by Kia Abdullah at Sainsbury’s recently. I saw Kia Abdullah at Cheltenham Literature Festival with Lisa Jewell two years ago. Last year, I enjoyed her novel, Next of Kin, and had been looking forward to reading another of her books. Those People Next Door was recently published in paperback.
Kia Abdullah specialises in carefully plotted courtroom thrillers, but this felt like it had a bigger chunk of psychological thriller before the courtroom action, and that was fine with me!
I actually read Those People Next Door in a single day because I was ill and had no wifi in my bedroom, so couldn’t watch any TV. Luckily, it is a real page turner.
Salma moves to Blenheim, a suburban London neighbourhood, with her husband and son, Zain. She has hopes for a fresh start, away from the claustrophobia and pressures of the inner city. But it’s not long before they meet their neighbour, Tom.
Tom removes an anti-racism banner from Salma’s lawn, so Salma puts it up in the window. Then somebody covers her window with paint. She confronts Tom, who denies it, but from that moment it is war between the two families. Things very quickly get much worse for Salma and her family, with Tom denying any involvement with any of the bad things that happen to them.
Meanwhile, Zain makes friends with Tom’s son, Jamie, and the two boys try to ignore the trouble between their parents.
There is also Tom’s wife, Willa. Is she sympathetic to Salma, supportive of Tom or just looking out for herself and trying to look good in front of her wealthy friends?
The story is told in the third person, focusing mainly on Salma, but also on the other key characters. While the reader feels largely supportive of Salma, there is also a small doubt of whether she is actually the troublemaker – because isn’t she the one going round shouting at her neighbours?
The start of Those People Next Door felt very much like the similarly-titled The People Next Door by Tony Parsons. But while that book took a rather unbelievable turn, Those People Next Door feels realistic and believable. The twist at the end was a real shock though!
If you enjoy thrillers, I would definitely recommend Those People Next Door.