My name is Amber Fraser. I've just moved in at Number 40, Lime Park Road. You'll come to think of me as a loving wife, a thoughtful neighbour and a trusted friend.
This is a lie.
When Christy and Joe Davenport are handed the keys to Number 40 on picture-perfect Lime Park Road, Christy knows it should be a dream come true. How strange though that the house was on the market for such a low price. That the previous owners, the Frasers, had renovated the entire property yet moved out within a year. That none of the neighbours will talk to Christy.
As her curiosity begins to give way to obsession, Christy finds herself drawn deeper into the mystery of the house's previous occupants - and the dark and shocking secret that tore the street apart ...
The Sudden Departure of the Frasers was the choice for April which I received from the Curtis Brown Book Group. It is only the second book I have read by Louise Candlish but I have come to the realisation that she is a powerful writer. Between the covers of this book is a story full of depth, suspicion and intrigue. The stark, white, simple front cover may lead you to believe this will be a light read but it is not by any means. This novel really gets you thinking, it is a thriller of sorts though not in the usual manner of a murder whodunnit but rather slowly peeling back the layers piece by piece uncovering the secrets of what goes on behind closed doors. This is only the second book I have read by this author. Last year I read The Disappearance of Emily Marr. I found it quite long and I had no clue where it was going for the majority of the book.Then I found the ending to be totally amazing and the wool had really been pulled over my eyes. So with this new release I was anticipating something clever, gritty and realistic and this is certainly what I got.
The front inside and back covers have the layout of a house on Lime Park Road. First owned by Jeremy and Amber Fraser and recently bought by Christy and Jo Davenport. This was such a smart thing to do as each room in the plan had adjectives to describe the two main characters and also had me thinking right from the get go. What has happened? Who should I be suspicious of? Essentially this book asks one huge question : Why did the Fraser’s leave their stunning, opulent house on Lime Park Road virtually overnight? A simple question one might think but the answer was eluded to over 500 tantalising pages of a fascinating story. I will admit to becoming exasperated in a way that the author left us dangling so long but it was more my fault than Louise's. I am always impatient for answers immediately. In this book the tension and reasons for everything is slowly, slowly revealed piece by piece. I had to keep turning the page to find out the truth and when I did it changed my opinions of several characters. The author built up to a stunning conclusion and totally confirmed for me that appearances are very deceptive and also behind closed doors of a rich and plentiful street there are many secrets just biding their time to be revealed.
Lime Park Road sounded to me like some rich residential street in Chelsea or another wealthy part of London. I could imagine the tall houses side by side lavishly decorated and full of plush furniture and gadgets. Christy Davenport feels like herself and her husband should not be there as they have scrimped and saved just to afford the mortgage. She tries to put these thoughts aside but from the moment Christy enters the house she feels the house has a history and a secret. 'From the moment she first held the keys in her hand, something felt wrong'. This paranoia remains for the entire novel as the neighbours shun Kirsty and refuse to answer any of her questions. All she can gather was Amber and her husband lived in the house for barely a year and left after something happened very suddenly. It was all very hush hush and the neighbours seem bereft that a woman who was so welcoming and kind had to leave. I didn't like the way the neighbours treated Christy at all. They had built Amber up to be some sort of social queen and a woman with no faults (though she had plenty of those I can tell you) and to isolate Christy made me angry. Ok so in the end I knew why but for me it didn't justify their actions. Yet on the other hand what struck me almost straight away was, would you really be so on top of your neighbours? Always in each others houses, knowing every detail of their lives? I say hello to mine and that is enough for me. Christy became too obsessed with what her neighbours thought of her. I understand why you would want to know what had happened previously in your house? Also she wanted to know why Rob the man next door seemed to be a hate object? The elderly woman in the downstairs flat upped and left as well. Everything just seemed to consume Christy so much so that her own marriage began to become affected.
Each chapter alternates between Amber and Christy's point of view. I liked this as it gave us insights as to how each character was thinking and feeling. We learned why Amber acted the way she did. Obviously she was unhappy in her marriage for reasons you will discover 'I was unmoored, a rolling stone poised to drop into the first dark hole in its path'. In my opinion she got entrapped with went on and her past tendencies didn't help her either. In fact I confess to not liking her that much and had no sympathy for her and why she was forced to leave. She was built up to be this demi god in the eyes of the neighbours and friends and surely this is not good for anyone. What she did was so risky, not just the danger of it but the consequences for when it was all over. For surely what Amber embarks upon was not going to last and she knew that. Having a little fun is all well and good but the fall out has to be dealt with aswell. I felt the character of Rob was really hard done by and in the end he was really the only character I vaguely liked. Even Christy just began to annoy me.
I cannot relate to any of the characters in this book as their worlds are poles apart from how I live on a day to day basis. But Louise Candlish has created a novel which provides endless scope for discussion and deliberation. The author has given the reader a fascinating, gripping insight into the word of the Fraser's and Davenports. A story of mystery woven neatly throughout the book but at the same time as I have said a new type of thriller. So much that the last 50 or so pages may be the best in the entire novel. That's not saying the writing and story was not good throughout. It was. It was exceptional but the way everything was coming together so quickly and my questions were finally being answered meant I thoroughly enjoyed this section. After now having read two books by Louise Candlish, I can safely say I am hooked and will go back and read her back catalogue. Although I do get the feeling with this new release her writing style has taken on a whole new level. One which will earn her lots of new fans.