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Author Alex Marwood knows that most terrifying evil is ordinary. It is chilling to think that creepy, perverted killers may be living right next door, but some of the grisliest murderers have evaded detection by their ability to remain unnoticed. When they are caught their neighbours always tell reporters, “he was the last person you would ever suspect.”

Marwood is a masterful storyteller. In The Killer Next Door she pulls us into the sad but cozy little world at 23 Beulah Grove, a rundown rooming house in a slightly, seedy part of South London. The lodgers are an odd bunch. Each one of them has a reason to hide where no one, including the nasty landlord, asks too many questions.

The elderly Vesta has lived her entire life in the basement flat. Vesta likes to play mother to fellow tenants Cher and Hussein. She also hosts little gatherings to make life less bleak and lonely. Cher is a teenage runway. She supports herself by shoplifting and occasionally stealing a drunk’s wallet. It is dangerous, but Cher is desperate and alone.

Gerard is a divorced family man who keeps to himself.  Handsome Hussein is a political refugee from Iran with courtly manners. He is gallant to Vesta. Hussein also likes Collette, the “new girl” on the run from the mob. Finally there is Thomas, the minor bureaucrat who recently lost his job.

The group – with exception of Vesta, Hussein, and Cher – live separate lives in the dreary house until two horrible events bring make them all conspirators to protect their desperate existences.

Marwood imbues her characters with humanity,so that the reader is drawn into their lives. As in The Wicked Girls, Marwood’s first award-winning mystery, the reader can’t help but relate and be repelled at the same time. The ending is too good to even hint at, so I won’t.

This book is a must-read if you love to be creeped-out in style.