Title: The Good Neighbours
Author: Nina Allan
Publication Date: 10th June 2021
Cath is a photographer hoping to go freelance, working in a record shop to pay the rent and eking out her time with her manager Steve. He thinks her photography is detective work, drawing attention to things that would otherwise pass unseen and maybe he’s right . . .
Starting work on her new project – photographing murder houses – she returns to the island where she grew up for the first time since she left for Glasgow when she was just eighteen. The Isle of Bute is embedded in her identity, the draughty house that overlooked the bay, the feeling of being nowhere, the memory of her childhood friend Shirley Craigie and the devastating familicide of her family by the father, John Craigie.
Arriving at the Craigie house, Cath finds that it’s occupied by Financial Analyst Alice Rahman. Her bid to escape the city lifestyle, the anxiety she felt in that world, led her to leave London and settle on the island. The strangeness of the situation brings them closer, leading them to reinvestigate the Craigie murder. Now, within the walls of the Craigie house, Cath can uncover the nefarious truths and curious nature of John Craigie: his hidden obsession with the work of Richard Dadd and the local myths of the fairy folk.
The Good Neighbours is one of those books that expertly bends genres to its will. It is a crime story in some respects and a sort of dark fairytale in others with fact and myth becoming intertwined the further you read. I am a little bit obsessed with mythology and folklore and this book has sent me down so many rabbit holes I lost count! The folklore surrounding fairy folk is spectacularly interesting and creepy with equal measure and so is how and why we, as humans, have placed a great deal of importance in these stories throughout history.
The true star of The Good Neighbours has to be the writing which is haunting, intelligent and filled with an undercurrent of incredible atmosphere. A lot of this book is about places. Setting is vitally important throughout and how places can become imbued with something unseen by many. Cath is an unusual and slightly off kilter character who has a condition which affects her sight and allows her to experience the world in a different way to others. It is this which I think makes her so intent on understanding people like John Craigie and Richard Dadd (whose artwork graces the book cover) who have been driven to murder by a force beyond what is known. I don’t want to give too much away as the intricacies of the plot are so beautifully crafted but I really cannot recommend The Good Neighbours highly enough. Stunning, mysterious and masterfully layered.
Thank you so much to Ana McLaughlin of Riverrun, Quercus for the invitation on the social tour! I very kindly received a copy of the book for review purposes. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.