Book review: The Housewarming by SE Lynes

I’m always fascinated by psychological dramas between neighbours and was instantly drawn to this one by the cover and tagline “Everyone has something to hide.” The lights on in the house make me want to go inside and be a fly on the wall, find out who lives there and what they’re hiding behind closed doors.

I hadn’t read anything by SE Lynes before but had heard lots of good things so my expectations were quite high. I discovered that I love the way this author writes – the style is frantic but poetic and very visual. Ava’s trapped in a memory from a year ago when her toddler daughter Abi’s disappeared from the house while she was upstairs. This is the opening line:

“When I think about that morning, it is beat by beat, like a heart – my own heart, my daughter’s, at the time so enmeshed it seemed she was part of me: my body, my tissue, my bones. She is part of me. She always will be.”

The loss of a child is obviously most people’s worst nightmare but for this reason the scenario’s been done lots of times which presents an author with a difficult challenge in coming up with a storyline that feels fresh and plausible. I felt this book does it particularly well, though.

Ava’s guilt, angst and growing suspicion feels painfully real: “I live in the past, survive in the present” – while other chapters in her husband Matt’s viewpoint show that he’s tortured by his own guilt.

Their neighbours, Neil and Bella are pillars of support and help with the search but we soon find they’re dealing with their own problems. And then there are the Lovegoods, the aspirational neighbours holding the housewarming party. Are they as shallow and materialistic as they appear?

“Tragedy is like an infectious disease. People avoid you. They don’t want to catch it” When the invitation arrives, Ava’s not sure she can face her neighbours, especially all together in one room. It’s obvious they’ll all come because everyone’s dying to see the results of the ambitious refurbishment project that Neil’s been working on.

I loved the small cast of characters and claustrophobic setup. Revelations are teased out along the way and just as I thought all that was missing was a big twist, it came along.

Although I’d like the story to have ended differently, I loved the twist and found it plausible. This is such a visual story – I’d love to watch it on television.

The Housewarming will be published by Bookouture on 23rd October 2020 but can be preordered here

Thanks to the author and publisher for a review copy via Netgalley which in no way influenced my opinion of the book.

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