The Girl Next Door – Phoebe Morgan ~ Blog Tour.

Back of the book :

Perfect mother. Perfect wife. Jane Goodwin has spent years building her picture-perfect life in the quiet town of Ashdon.

So when the girl next door, sixteen-year-old Clare Edwards, is found murdered, Jane knows she must first protect her family.

Every marriage has a few white lies and hers is no exception. Jane’s worked hard to cover up her dark secret from all those years ago and she’ll do anything to keep it hidden

What I think :

Jane lives in one of he most expensive houses in town. It’s quite a sleepy little town, nothing bad ever happens there. She’s married to Jack, the local doctor. They have three children together, Harry who’s a teenager and Finn and Sophie who are younger. Her marriage isn’t at all what it seems to the outside world, there is much turbulence, but, Jane must NEVER let anyone know that, it’s all about appearances.

Jane isn’t particularly close to her next door neighbours, Rachel and Ian and their daughter Clare. She’s tried to be by taking round bottles of wine etc but Rachel and Ian just want to keep to themselves.

Then one night Rachel knocks on Jane’s door visibly upset. Her daughter Clare has gone missing, she’s not come home from school, she asks if her son Harry, knows where she is ? But he doesn’t because he’s out with friends having pizza.

Some hours later, Clare is found on the meadow, she’s been murdered. Hit over the head. Her phone is missing …

The local weirdo, Nathan Warren called it in to the police, is he to blame or has someone else in the town murdered Clare …

This is quite a slow-burner, the author sets the scene for quite a few chapters before getting to the story proper.

The characters are real and relatable and behave in a way that you would expect them to in that sort of situation. Some I really liked and felt sorry for and there were others that I wasn’t quite struck on, just like in real life !

It has plenty of twists and turns to get your teeth into and a few red herrings that set you down the wrong path.

Each chapter is told from a different characters perspective mainly Jane, Maddie (the police officer investigating) and Clare on the day that she’s murdered.

This one is completely different from the authors first book, which is no bad thing and I do have to admit that this one did keep me puzzling right up until the end. ( which is quite unusual for me !) talking of the end it’s pretty explosive in a twisty sort of way !!

Anyway, I thought that it was quite brilliant and I give it a well deserved 10/10.

Published on 21/02/19 by HQ

A big thanks to Lucy Richardson at HQ (Harper Collins) for the review copy of the book .

Here for your reading pleasure is an extract from the book 🙂

Extract :

Monday 4th February, 7.45 p.m.

I’m sitting in the window with a glass of cool white wine, watching as one by one, the lights in the house next door to ours flicker on. It’s dark outside, the February night giving nothing away, and the Edwards’ house glows against the gloom. Their walls are cream – not a colour I’d choose – and their front garden runs down to the road, parallel to ours. Inside, I imagine their house to be a mirror image of my own: four spacious bedrooms, a wide, gleaming kitchen, beams that date from the fifteenth century framing the stairway. I’ve never been inside, not properly, but everybody knows our properties are the most sought-after in the town – the biggest, the most expensive, the ones they all want.

There’s a creaking sound from upstairs – my husband Jack, moving around in our room, loosening his tie, the clunk of his shoes dropping onto the floor of the wardrobe. He’s been drinking tonight – the open bottle of whiskey sits on the counter, sticky drops spilling onto the surface.

Quietly, so as not to wake the children, I stand, move away from the window and begin clearing it up, putting the bottle back in the cupboard, wiping the little circle of stain off the marble countertop. Wiping away the evidence of the night, of the things he said to me that I want to forget. I’m good at forgetting. Blanking the slate. Practice makes perfect, after all.

The house is tidy and still. The bunch of lilies Jack bought me last week stand stiff on the windowsill, their large pink petals overseeing the room. Apology flowers. I could open up a florist, if it wasn’t such a tacky idea.

There’s a sound outside and, curious, I move to the front window, lift the thick, dove-grey curtain to one side so that I can see the Edwards’ front garden. Their porch light has come on, lighting up the gravel driveway, the edge of their garage on the far side, and the stone bird bath at the front, frozen over in the February chill. I’ve always thought a birdbath was a little too much, but each to their own. Rachel Edwards’ tastes have never quite aligned with mine.

We’ve never been close, Rachel and I. Not particularly. I tried, of course. When she and her first husband Mark moved in a few years ago, I went round with a bottle of wine – white, expensive. It was hot, July, and I imagined us sitting out in the back garden together, me filling her in about who’s who in the town, her nodding along admiringly when I showed her the wisteria that climbs up our back wall, the pretty garden furniture that sits around the chimera on the large flagged patio. I thought we’d be friends as well as neighbours. I pictured her looking at me and Jack wistfully, envying us even – popping round for dinner, exclaiming at the shine of the kitchen, running a hand over the beautiful silver candlesticks when she thought I wasn’t looking. We’d laugh together about the goings-on at the school, the lascivious husbands in the town, the children. She’d join our book club, maybe even the PTA. We’d swap recipes, babysitter numbers; shoes, at a push. But we didn’t do any of those things. She took the wine from me, naturally, but her expression was closed, cold even. My first thought was that she was very beautiful; the ice queen next door.

‘My husband’s inside,’ she’d said, ‘we’re just about to have dinner, so… Perhaps I can pop round another time?’

Behind her, I caught a glimpse of her daughter, Clare – she looked about the same age as my eldest son, Harry. I saw the flash of blonde hair, the long legs as she stood still on the stairs, watching her mother. She never did pop round, of course. For weeks afterwards I felt hurt by it, and then I felt irritated. Did she think she was too good for us? The other women told me not to worry, that we didn’t need her in our little mothers’ group anyway. ‘You can’t force it,’ my friend Sandra said. Over time, I let it go. Well, sort of. When Mark died, I went round to see Rachel, tried again. I thought she must be terribly lonely, rattling around in that big house, just her and Clare. But even then, there remained a distance between us, a bridge I couldn’t quite cross. Something odd in her smile. And then, of course, she met Ian. Husband number two. After that, I stopped trying altogether.

I see Clare every now and then, grown even prettier in the last few years. Jack thinks I don’t notice the way his eyes follow her as she walks by, but I do. I notice everything.

I hear footsteps on the gravel, and recoil from the window as a figure appears, striding purposely towards our front door. I open it before they can knock, thinking of my younger children, Finn and Sophie, tucked away upstairs, dreaming, oblivious.

Rachel is standing on our doorstep, but she doesn’t look like Rachel. Her eyes are wide, her hair all over her face, whipped by the wind.

‘Jane,’ she says, ‘I’m sorry to bother you, I just—’ She’s peering around me, her eyes darting into our porch, where our coats are hanging neatly on the ornate black pegs. My Barbour, Jack’s winter coat, Harry’s scruffy hoodie that I wish he’d get rid of. Finn and Sophie’s little duffels, red and blue with wooden toggles up the front. Our perfect little family. The thought makes me smile. It’s so far from the truth.

‘Have you seen Clare? Is she here?’

I stare at her, taken aback. Clare is sixteen, a pupil at Ashdon Secondary. The year below Harry, Year Eleven. I see her in the mornings, leaving for school, wearing one of those silky black rucksacks with impractically thin straps. She can’t possibly get all her books in there. Like I said, we don’t mix with the Edwards much. I don’t know Clare well at all.

‘Jane?’ Rachel’s voice is desperate, panicked.

‘No!’ I say, ‘no, Rachel, I’m sorry, I haven’t. Why would she be here?’

She lets out a moan, almost animalistic. There are tears forming in her eyes, threatening to spill down her cheeks. For a moment, I almost feel a flicker of satisfaction at seeing the icy mask melt, then squash the thought down immediately. Just because she’s never been neighbourly doesn’t mean I have to be the same.

‘She’s not with Harry or something?’

I stare at her. My son is out, a post-match pizza night with the boys from his football team. He took Sophie and Finn to school today for me; the night out is his reward. If I’m honest, I’ve always thought he might have a bit of a crush on Clare, like father like son, but as far as I know she’s never given him the time of day. Not that he’d tell me if she had, I suppose. His main communication these days is through grunts.

‘No,’ I say, ‘no, she isn’t with Harry.’

Her breath comes fast, panting, panicked. ‘Do you want to come inside?’ I ask quickly. ‘I can get you a drink, you can tell me what’s happened.’

She shakes her head, and I feel momentarily put out. Most people in Ashdon would kill to see inside our house: the expensive furnishings, the artwork, the effortless sense of style that money makes so easy. Well, it’s not totally effortless, of course. Not without its sacrifices.

‘We can’t find her,’ she says, ‘she didn’t come home from school. Oh God, Jane, she’s disappeared. She’s gone.’

I stare at her, trying to comprehend what she’s saying. ‘What? I’m sure she’s just with a friend,’ I say, putting a hand on her arm as she stands at the door, feeling her shake beneath my fingers.

‘No,’ she says, ‘no. I’ve called them all. Ian’s been up and down the high street, looking for her. She’s normally home by four thirty, school gets out just after four. We can’t get hold of her on the mobile, we’ve tried and tried and it goes to voicemail. It’s almost eight o’clock.’ She’s clenching and unclenching her fists, blinking too much, trying to control the panic. I don’t know what to do.

‘Shall I come round?’ I ask. ‘The kids are asleep anyway, Harry’s not here, and Jack’s upstairs.’ If she thinks it odd that my husband hasn’t come down, she doesn’t say anything.

‘Rachel!’ There’s a shout – Ian, the aforementioned hubby number two. He appears in my doorway, a large, oversized iPhone in his hand. His face is red, he looks a bit out of breath. He’s a big man, ex-army, or so people say. Works in the City, takes the train to Liverpool Street most mornings. I know because I see him through the window. He runs his own business, engineering, something like that. Always a jovial tie. I’ve heard him shouting at Clare in the evenings; I can never make out what he’s saying. I suppose it must be hard, being second best. I know I wouldn’t like it.

‘The police are on their way,’ he says, and at this Rachel breaks down, her body curling into his, his arms reaching out to stroke her back.

‘If there’s anything I can do,’ I say, and he nods at me gratefully over his wife’s head. I can see the fear in his own eyes, and feel momentarily surprised. It takes a lot to unsettle a military man. Unless he knows more than he’s letting on. He never did get on well with Clare.

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