Rouda’s talent seems to lie in offering up flawed characters but luring us into their world, so we bond and feel sympathy or empathy before twisting things until we realise we’ve been duped. Often along with other characters we’re following on the journey.Somebody's Home
by Kaira Rouda
Published by Thomas & Mercer
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Julie Jones has left her suffocating marriage. With her teenage daughter, Jess, she’s starting over. Their new house in Oceanside is the first step toward a new life. Even if it does come with the unexpected. The previous owners, a pastor and his wife, have left something—or rather someone—behind…
Tom Dean has a bitter hatred for the father who considers him a lost cause, and for the woman who’s moved into their family’s house. The only home he’s ever known. He’s never going to leave. She thinks he’ll be gone in three days, but Tom has the perfect plan.
For a newly single mother and her daughter, a fresh start is the beginning of a nightmare. Before the weekend is over, somebody is going to get exactly what they deserve.
Rouda puts us in Tom’s head in the beginning and we learn of his difficult relationship with his father and step-mother. We also learn however that he’s just returned from a retreat and keen to make an effort to introduce what he’s learned there, like controlling his anger for example.
Which, we readers think, is good because Tom’s father sounds like (and we discover IS) a prick and he’s had it tough.
Our other narrators are Julie, her daughter Jess, Tom’s stepmother Sandi and Julie’s husband Roger.
I felt that a strength of this story was hearing different points of view – sometimes of the same events – with Jess being the standout for me. She’s angry at her mother for ripping her away from her privileged life, but in her musings we know she thinks her father treats her mother badly and is well… not a nice person. Interestingly she sees both sides and understands everyone’s actions but doesn’t seem to consider the implications.
As an overthinker and someone who ponders my own and others’ motivations I wondered if her refusal to deal with consequences is a sign of her age and lack of maturity. In many ways she’s the quintessential petulant child (albeit a teenage one). She wants what she wants and to hell with everything else.
I also really liked Julie and we spend quite a bit of time with her early in the novel, understanding why she’s finally decided to assert her independence and leave her emotionally abusive and philandering husband.
Later however, the focus moves a little more to Sandi who offers more insight into Tom. And again we get her version of events as well as his.
There’s a lot happening here but in many ways the stories of the two families mirror each other. Adulterous husbands who like to control their wives and the impact that has on their kids.
We probably could have done without some of the plot threads. The party game that gets Jess into trouble for example, as I don’t think it adds a lot to the narrative. Similarly, even though events impacting Roger demonstrate his character, we’ve already learned – via Julie and the more objective Jess – what he’s like.
Thankfully however the main plot doesn’t get lost in the extraneous detail – though it’s probably weakened a little.
I had We Need To Talk About Kevin flashbacks towards the end here and it IS quite shocking despite we readers being a smidge distracted by other stuff happening in the background.
Of course I should mention that I’m conscious Rouda’s probably included this detail to mislead us so we aren’t sure what the book’s climax will involve, and I think she’s succeeded here as we’re certainly kept guessing.
Somebody’s Home by Kaira Rouda will be published by Thomas & Mercer on 18 January 2022.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.