To quote the greatest boy band of my generation, NSYNC – Merry [day after] Christmas, Happy Holidays! I hope everyone has had an amazing time with friends and family. We (Kay, RC, and Ramsey) are currently driving from the beach to WNC to continue our holiday celebrations, but when a new book is released – especially when it’s Lisa Jewell, one of my new favorites- I have to stop everything I’m doing and share my review! Don’t worry, I’m not driving while typing this!
Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.
As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all—including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenaged son Freddie—a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5—excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father.
One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother—whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years—is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her.
Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam…
I really enjoyed the structure of the story. Similar to Big Little Lies, it flashed between alternate viewpoints with overlapping narratives and police interviews, building suspense. A crime clearly took place and it is up to the reader to piece together the tidbits of the story alongside a police investigation to determine what happened – and why. It was the perfect structure for building suspense, keeping the reader in the dark as long as possible, and making me come up with extremely elaborate theories in an attempt to determine what in the world is going on.
I never felt that I could trust any of the characters – everyone appeared to be hiding something and they were also incredibly flawed which made a much more enticing story. I would also say the narrators were all unreliable because, as the story goes on, you see that their alliances and past experiences are clouding their judgment. It felt so… human. Realistic. Terrifyingly so.
My main detriment with this was that there were so many characters and plot lines, making it require much more focus to keep the stories straight. It wasn’t just an easy read, but once they all come together? Amazing. Chilling. And so meticulously crafted. And the ending (i.e. literally the very last page)? Chilling PERFECTION.
Also, I said this on Goodreads but I’ll say it again – it always throws me for a loop when I read a book written by someone outside of the US and they reference different metric systems. Example: they were discussing how miserably hot a day was when it was 33 degrees out. For our readers from other countries – the US is weird and uses Fahrenheit, not Celsius, so our 33 is basically freezing!
Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with a review copy. It’s my honor to share my honest thoughts and opinions with you all! Get your copy here!