The House by Simon Lelic

The Blurb On The Back:

Every house has a past.

Every couple has their secrets.

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago.  It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it.  But that was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered.  Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

After 2 years of saving for a deposit and being gazumped 12 times, London council housing officer Jack Walsh and his charity worker girlfriend, Syd Baker, have bought a house even though their offer was below the asking price and other viewers definitely offered more.  They think that they got it because the vendor wanted to sell to a couple and they have to empty it of his possessions but when Jack makes a grisly discovery in the attic he begins to wonder if something else is going on.

Meanwhile Syd has made friends with Elsie Payne, a young girl who lives a couple of streets away with her abusive father, Sean, who doesn’t take well to Syd’s interest.  When Sean is found murdered in the alleyway behind Jack and Syd’s house the police take an interest in the couple and in the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other …

Simon Lelic’s psychological thriller has a gimmicky twin narrative device (with Syd and Jack essentially writing their stories for each other) but despite a creepy set-up in the first quarter the twists were too easy to guess and the revelation of secrets meant that I rapidly lost sympathy for one of the main characters while the antagonist’s plan relies on contrivance and people behaving in unbelievable ways to work.

I enjoyed the first quarter of the book although the narrative gimmick of Syd and Jack setting out their own version of how they came to buy the house took a bit of getting used to due to the time jumps and because at times it reads like duelling monologues.  I particularly liked the growing sense of menace as you realise that something weird is going on and was looking forward to a sinister pay off.  However the plot starts to go off the rails with the introduction of Elsie, a thinly characterised abuse victim who Syd forms a bond with, mainly because Sean is such a stereotypical abuser while a sub-plot involving Jack and an Iraqi family was too cynical a plot device for me to care about.  On top of this the reveal of the couple’s secrets strained credibility for me while still being easy to guess and by the time the pay-off came I’d begun to lose interest in them.  Ultimately although this book didn’t really work for me I’d still check out Lelic’s other work.

THE HOUSE will be released in the United Kingdom on 2nd November 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

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