Review – The Good Neighbour by Beth Miller

By | September 7, 2015

Everyone has secrets. How far will you go to protect yours?

After living next to the neighbours from hell, Minette is overjoyed when Cath and her two children move in next door. Cath soon becomes her confidante, a kindred spirit, even her daughter’s babysitter.

But Cath keeps herself unusually guarded and is reluctant to speak of her past. And when Minette witnesses something unspeakable, she begins to question whether she really knows her new friend at all…

I really enjoyed this book, but it’s going to be really difficult to review! If I should share some of its secrets – secrets you really need to discover for yourself – I’d totally ruin it for you. The Good Neighbour is Beth Miller’s second novel, and will be published in paperback and for kindle on 10th September by Ebury Press.

As well as being difficult to review, it’s also really difficult to categorise. It’s not really a thriller – but it’s full of deception, twists and turns, things not being what they seem and overflows with tension. It’s not really conventional family-based drama either – too many twists and oddities for that – but it’s a fascinating study of relationships within families and within a small community. And if you’re thinking of putting a bench in your front garden, you might want to reconsider. And as for that charity event your neighbour’s organising….

I think I should share the video trailer Beth Miller made with her children, because it describes the book far better than I can:

There – do you have more of a picture now? 

If you look up the book on Amazon, it’ll tell you it’s perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Daughter. The Liane Moriarty comparison is quite perfect. Like the best of Liane Moriarty – remember my review of Little Lies (here)? – this book is very cleverly structured as the relationships between the characters develop while you watch. You know something’s not quite right, but you’ll struggle to put your finger on it. And, having looked on with mounting horror, when the big revelations come, you really want to close your eyes, not wanting to see the inevitable (metaphorical) car crash. 

But Daughter – the Jane Shemilt book? Not at all, and I wonder if the publishers have used the wrong title. The one I’d compare it with is Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little – remember that review (here)? Cathy is every bit as mesmerising in her own way as Janie was, and I could use the same words to describe her – you’ll both love and hate her, but it’s quite impossible to take your eyes off her.

The three central figures of Cathy, Minette and Davey – from whose perspectives the story is told, turn by turn – are vividly drawn. The others are a little one dimensional – but I think that works fine, and just helps to keep your focus on the main players. The only thing that didn’t entirely work for me was Cathy’s accent and the way she spoke – people from Harrogate really don’t talk like that (honestly, they don’t…), it was sometimes just a little clunky and leaked into the narrative (things like a transposed “was” and “were”). But that might have just been my advance reading copy, so I’ll forgive it. 

So overall then – a really good read, very different, very original (despite the comparisons), a gripping story full of surprises, great touches of humour and a guarantee that you’ll never view your neighbours in quite the same way ever again. I really enjoyed it.

My thanks to netgalley and Ebury Press for my advance reading ecopy.

Beth Miller has been a sex educator, alcohol counsellor, university lecturer and inept audio-typist. She is the author of When We Were Sisters and The Good Neighbour. She has a PhD in Psychology, which is yet to come in handy. She has an excellent website where you can find out more: you’ll also find her on Twitter and Facebook (almost as often as me).