I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I have a particular weakness when it comes to covers featuring the front door of a house. It’s just so enticing, isn’t it? Come inside, it seems to say, there’s so much for you to discover here. I simply can’t resist the temptation to find out what lies beyond that door… it’s an instant must-read for me. I can’t wait to cross over the threshold and step into the world the author has created!
It’s going to be very difficult to review this book without treading into spoiler territory, so much of what I have to say is going to be deliberately vague.
The New Couple is set in the affluent neighborhood of Sycamore Gardens in London. The elderly couple who used to live at #12 announced the were moving away to retire after being approached by a company that raffles off prestigious properties for charity. Several months later, the neighborhood is buzzing with the news that they will soon have new neighbors: Richard and Stephanie Hamlin, and their infant daughter Poppy. The residents are eager to welcome them to the neighborhood, but that eagerness quickly turns to puzzlement once the Hamlins arrive. They seem reluctant, if not completely unwilling, to meet everyone, and there are many seemingly insignificant things about them that just don’t add up. One resident can’t shake the feeling that something’s off about the Hamlins, and she’s determined to find out what it is.
Told from the perspectives of three characters spanning four parts, this story is a slow burn that gradually fills in missing details as the perspectives swap from one character to another. Rather than causing the story to feel repetitive when known events/conversations are inevitably rehashed, it instead gives the reader deeper insight into why the character(s) in question reacted the way they did in certain circumstances… turning what initially seemed inexplicable into something that was easily understood. It introduced tension to scenes where none existed previously, and seemingly innocuous statements were sometimes revealed to have much darker overtones.
I loved being able to see the story through three sets of eyes, and to know their inner thoughts about key events. It allowed me to have complete knowledge of everything that transpired, which made the story even more enjoyable for me.
To guard against potential spoilers, I’m not able to discuss what I most liked (or disliked) about the main characters. Suffice to say I found them all to be well written and interesting in one way or another. There are a few lesser characters that I wished had been featured more, but the story clearly demanded that they play a smaller role in the chain of events, so this shouldn’t be considered to be a complaint… if anything, it’s an indication of how appealing they were to me.
The ending was both expected and unexpected, to some degree. I can’t explain why. I can only say that the thing I expected had to happen in order to propel the story to its conclusion. It wasn’t convenient; it was logical and appropriate. As for the unexpected bits…. well, those were really something!
The New Couple is a well-written, compelling read, and I think readers of psychological thrillers will enjoy it as much as I did. Highly recommended!
About the Book
The perfect marriage. The perfect house. The perfect secret…
As I step through the cherry-red door of my new home, I know I should feel like the luckiest woman alive. I have a handsome husband, a beautiful daughter and now the house of my dreams. And to everyone else my life looks perfect…
When the neighbours stop by to welcome us, I tell them my name is Stephanie Hamlin and, under the watchful gaze of my husband Richard, I introduce him and our curly haired little girl Poppy. I smile as wide as I can and desperately hope I can fit in to this exclusive place with its pretty communal gardens. Because I’ve risked everything to be here.
Behind closed doors I try to relax, to unwind in the huge clawfoot bath and forget about my complicated past. It’s hard being the new couple on the street when you’ve got secrets.
Because the truth is, my charming husband isn’t really my husband.
And I’m not Stephanie Hamlin…
About the Author
ALISON JAMES was born in the Cotswolds but spent most of her formative years abroad. She studied languages at Oxford, then became a journalist and author, returning to university after her two children to take a law degree. After a three-year stint as a criminal paralegal, she worked as a commercial copywriter and then a TV storyliner, before coming full circle to write fiction again.