Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Welcome to Willow Close, where everyone is a suspect . . .
Nina and Conrad best thought they'd discovered their dream home.
But on the day they move in, a body is found - the victim attacked and killed in the woods.
As police start to question the residents, they discover that they all have their own secrets.
Behind each door, strange and even dark things are happening . . .
Now everyone is a suspect. And no one is safe.
Many thanks to ED Pr for my copy of Suspects to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.
Suspects, the new book from Lesley Pearse, begins with a shocking opening that instantly sets the tone for the remainder of the story. At all times this is an intense, gripping and suspicion filled read that once you begin reading it is most certainly very difficult to leave it out of your hands. I’ve been a fan of Lesley Pearse for as long as I can remember and the standard of her books never ever wavers. Here the scene is set very quickly with no time wasting or needless filler in chapters. Early one morning Rob and Maureen Willis are out walking their dog when they make the most gruesome of discoveries. They find a young child, half hidden away under a bush. This girl has been attacked and murdered. Who can have done this and why? The quiet community of Willow Close has never seen anything like this happen before and no one would have thought it possible. But perhaps there is a darker side to the street that if you look that little bit closer many things will come to the surface. All is not as it seems and the person responsible for Chloe Church’s murder must be found.
Conrad and Nina are excited to be moving into their new forever home. Conrad works in a care home for troubled boys. He can easily pick up on people’s problems and Nina works as a florist. It’s her life’s passion which fills her with enthusiasm as she loves interacting and connecting with people. Initially I thought Conrad and Nina would form a big part of the book but instead they are just two in a large cast of characters who although have a pivotal role to play as the book develops there are far more people that you are keeping track of as your opinions and suspicions change with every turn of the page. That’s the way this kind of book should be. You should be left guessing until the very last minute as to who the murderer is but along the way blame, mistrust and uncertainty should fall on every character. They certainly do in this story as one minute I thought oh it’s definitely such a person and then with in the next chapter my opinion had changed. Lesley Pearse cleverly develops the range of plots so that you don’t know who to trust or believe. Is anything any character saying true? What are they lying about? As it soon becomes evident that the residents of Willow Close all lead very different lives behind closed doors to the ones they portray outside to their neighbours.
There was quite a rush of characters introduced for a good few chapters and yes I’ll admit I did find them hard to keep track of for some time and questioned whether so many were needed. But as the investigation picks up its pace I thought yes, all these characters needed to be present, that their own individual storylines feed very well into the overall plot. Once I became familiar with who was who and what their own issues and problems were and what could have motivated them to commit murder I was constantly playing a guessing game. I was reading more into what could have been the most innocent of comments trying to find a hidden meaning and I was enjoying every minute of this trying to solve the murder. There is so much drama, tension, agitation and unpleasantness amongst the characters and really apart from Nina and Conrad none of them are particularly likeable. But I don’t think the author set out to make us care for the majority of the people we encounter in this book, it’s more about finding out who the murderer is and in doing so the dynamics of a neighbourhood are explored and plenty of hidden truths revealed.
Mike and Ruth have had their only daughter, their jewel in their crown, snatched away from them and given their past history this trauma and devastation is keenly felt. Rose is married to John Freeman and she is the street gossip, which we know every street has one. She is stuck in everyone’s business. She thrives on the failures, disappointments and tragedies of others enjoying others misfortunes. Did she see anything suspicious seeing as she has her pulse on the fore front of everything that takes place on the close? Trudy Singer lives with her daughter Amy but really neglects her. Her husband has more or less had enough of her and he spends so much time working away. Trudy has a crushing guilt that casts a shadow over her life. She detests her weight and her life and is a poor mother as Amy is often left to fend for herself. Trudy is so caught up in her own world of misery that she barely notices what is going on around her. She wallows in self-pity wondering why any man would want her.
Janice Wyatt is a glamourous, mysterious woman who doesn’t reveal much about herself at all to the neighbours. She keeps her personal life and travels to herself but when we learn a bit more about her, I really loved how she was developed as a character. Alfie Strong is married to the cold hearted and sadistic Dee, what a combination these too were. Alfie was meek and couldn’t stand up to Dee even though she lies and twists things around. He doesn’t like her, let alone love her but he appears trapped. Dee was a brilliant character who you really wanted to see someone give her the comeuppance she so justly deserved. She was hard, devious, terrifying, cruel and malevolent but there was also a certain dumbness about her that could see her get caught out in her scheming when it came to Alfie.
Terry and Wilma Parkin are the opposites of each other. She is intelligent, quiet and bland whereas he has a swagger about him. But does it belie something else hiding beneath the surface and just what are they up to with moving certain things about? Brian and May Alcott have their own tanning salon business but is there something else going on that they wish the police not to discover? Gareth Price lost his daughter to a road accident which led to the breakdown of his marriage and ever since he has spiralled into alcoholism. He is a liability packed full of resentment. Could he also be a danger? Did he snap one day killing Chloe? Who knows?
As I mentioned previously and from the brief introductions to the characters you can see just how many there are not to mention secondary characters that do play their part too. But every one of these people were worthy of inclusion as the author built up such fascinating and intriguing stories about them that at times you even forgot there had been a murder at all because what the residents of Willow Close were getting up in a seemingly lovely neighbourhood will have your eyebrows raised and thinking god I hope half this doesn’t happen in and around where I live.
One major incident leads to so much else unravelling. A chain reaction is set in motion and Lesley Pearse takes us on a rollercoaster of a ride packed full of twists and turns that when we are first introduced to these characters you really don’t see coming. Towards the end my suspicions grew as to who could have committed the crime but I literally only guessed before the reveal came. There is so much hatred, distrust and anger amongst these characters that you hope in their own individual situations that the right person gets their just desserts.
Crime and mystery are not my genre of choice and Lesley Pearse wouldn’t be classed as being in this genre given all the brilliant earlier sagas and stories about strong women she has written. But I am loving this new direction the last few of her books have taken. We get the mystery and suspense as well as the human stories packed full of emotion and I am loving every minute of it. Without doubt Suspects is another winner for Lesley.