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Crime & Beyond met last month to talk about The Killer Next Door, a book by new-to-us author, Alex Marwood. Marwood is a British novelist and journalist who received wide acclaim for her previous book, psychological thriller The Wicked Girls. She continues to receive praise for The Killer Next Door and has since written another standalone novel of suspense, The Darkest Secret.

First, a little bit about the book. The Killer Next Door follows the lives of a group of people thrown together by unfortunate circumstances, in a London bedsit located at 23 Beulah Grove. Each is down on their luck in some way, and several are hiding from someone or something that could destroy them. One of them is a killer.

I was a bit worried to hear what everyone thought about the book because it wasn’t really a mystery in the traditional sense. About halfway through, the author told us who the Lover was (aka Sharon L.’s favorite character). The rest was really finding out how things ended for the unlikely group of “friends.” I was pleasantly surprised to hear the reviews from club members.

MidsomerMurders

Midsomer Murders

NormanBates

Norman Bates

The book got some great reviews and I’ll start with the positive. Dave gave it the highest score of 9. He liked the characters and called them all survivors, which I think is a great description. There were then five scores of 8 and six scores of 7 (one of those was a 7.5 because Sharon K. just couldn’t decide between a 7 and an 8). We loved the characters and thought the book was well written and kept our attention. We could smell the sewage in Vesta’s apartment and couldn’t stop wiping our hands to remove the grease we felt had been transferred to them from the bathtub drain. It’s a good author that can make you feel and smell the surroundings, even when you would really rather not. Jeff said it was part Midsomer Murders and everyone else thought the other part was Psycho. Insert screechy music here.

Sharon K. liked the dark humor of the scene where they tried to shove the landlord’s rather large body through the doorway to the shed. She likened it to the scene in the funeral home where everyone was hiding in the coffins to ambush the mob boss in the latest Jo Nesbo book. That gave us a laugh.

Some of the negative comments revolved around the gruesomeness of the book (see next paragraph for two ways to look at that). Two people called the gore “needless.” The book dragged on a bit for Kim, but she still ended up enjoying it on the whole. Jay, our lowest score of 2.5 thought the book was god-awful.

Things we could all pretty much agree on: (1) we loved Vesta, (2) we were glad the landlord died, (3) we liked the ending, and (4) it was a bit gory (some said this as a positive and some as a negative, but we all agreed on it).

FingerCookies

Finger Cookies

KeysAndFobs

Keys and Fobs

Lorraine’s snacks were equal parts scary and delicious. My favorite were the finger cookies. I had a hard time biting into the end of the cookie because that damn almond sliver really looked like an actual fingernail. You will be happy to know that I powered through and ate 2 more. Great job at creating a snack to fit the book Lorraine. To her credit, she was even trying to figure out how she could serve the cookies frozen, just like Collette’s unfortunate appendages, but alas the drive from the Springs wouldn’t allow for it. Points for thinking of it.

Lastly, as the book has been optioned as a movie (although nothing has happened to move that forward) we had quite a discussion on who would play each part. Some suggestions were: Diane Lane for Collette and Angela Lansbury for Vesta. For Cher, we had a suggestion of one of the actresses from 12 Years a Slave, but I didn’t write down her name. Lorraine actually interviewed the best candidate for Psycho (the cat) and shared his info with us.

Hair: Charcoal/Brown/White Height: 9 ½”
Eyes: Crazy Gray Weight: 17.83 lbs.
Special Physical Traits: One Ear, Long Claws
Voice Part: Mezzo Soprano Screech Roll Type: Nuts
Playing Age: Doesn’t matter, he’s friggin’ NUTS!

Dave will lead and bring snacks to the April meeting on the 25th. I will be in London on vacation, staying as far away from Beulah Lane as I can get, thank you very much. If you’re my Facebook friend, you can follow my posts. We plan to do everything Mystery related we can: Sherlock Holmes Museum, The Mousetrap Play, Jack the Ripper night tour, Diagon Alley – I mean Leadenhall Market, and I even own a book called The Mystery Lovers Walking Guide to London where we can see where sleuths lived and, well, sleuthed.

P.S. We had some talk about how Cher didn’t take the money from the landlord’s house. Rather, she took a little bit, but not all of it. Some said this didn’t ring true to her character. Sharon L., our member author liaison has contacted Ms. Marwood to ask why she made this choice for Cher. I’ll let her take it from here.

Until May,

Kerry


From Sharon L.:

Here is my email to Alex Marwood:

Hi Alex,

My book club read The Killer Next Door for our March meeting. We all loved the character development. Even those in the group who were not fans of some of Thomas’ actions (i.e. his girls), I for one loved that! But anyway, even those who had problems with that, still liked the book because of the great characters and your writing. We even all discussed and decided which actors would play each part in the movie version. However, we did have a question – why did Cher (Cheryl) not take all of the money from the landlord? That seemed to go against her character’s nature if you will. By the way, we all loved Vesta!! The grandmother of the house of misfits. I am now going to read The Wicked Girls as well as your newest, The Darkest Secret

Thank you,

Sharon Long

And now Alex’s response, which I must say is a record!! She responded back in less than 8 hours!!! Very impressive

Oh, thanks. Sharon - what a lovely email! Am feeling the warm fuzzies right now.

Here's the thin with Cher: I actually thrased this out with my editor because she sort of felt the same thing. But it was really important to me that she didn't take all the money. I think desppite the awfulness of her situation that one would have come away with a completely different picture of her.l She's dishonest and occasionally quite ruthless, but everything she does she does to survive, not because those things are innate in her. At base she's a good person, and that's what Vesta sees in her. I think if she'd walked away with all the money, that would been destroyed forever...

Golly, isn't it funny how seriously one can take a fictional character? :)

best wishes

Alex

Signed,

Sharon (Member Author Liaison)

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