I enjoyed Louise Candlish’s The Other Passenger, published in 2020. It proved popular, as did Our House, published in 2018 and since made into a four-part miniseries. I missed her 2021/22 book The Heights but happily dove into her latest release, The Only Suspect. Like The Other Passenger, here Candlish offers up a twisty tale with a narrator (well, two in fact) we’re not sure we can trust.The Only Suspect
by Louise Candlish
Published by Simon & Schuster UK
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Alex lives a comfortable life with his wife Beth in the leafy suburb of Silver Vale. Fine, so he’s not the most sociable guy on the street, he prefers to keep himself to himself, but he’s a good husband and an easy-going neighbour.
That’s until Beth announces the creation of a nature trail on a local site that’s been disused for decades and suddenly Alex is a changed man. Now he’s always watching. Questioning. Struggling to hide his dread . . .
As the landscapers get to work, a secret threatens to surface from years ago, back in Alex’s twenties when he got entangled with a seductive young woman called Marina, who threw both their lives into turmoil. And who sparked a police hunt for a murder suspect that was never quite what it seemed.
This book unfolds in the present via Alex (over several months as the walking trail starts being cleared) and in 1995, again over several months via Rick, in his mid 20s who falls for Marina, a mysterious young woman he sees in a cafe. The move from Alex in the present to Rick in the past makes it seem obvious that Rick becomes Alex. Indeed, we learn the latter changed his name at some point in the intervening twenty years. (Though of course we should know all is not always as it seems!)
Rick and Marina’s romance is sweet. Endearing, though it’s obvious she’s keeping secrets… leading him on perhaps? The Rick we initially meet is likeable and it’s hard to see how or why he’d have a college friend (now roommate) as arrogant and narcissistic as Rollo. They’re complete opposites so it’s Rollo who becomes suspicious of Marina who seems too good to be true and puts a lot of boundaries around her relationship with Rick.
Marina’s secrets are (of course) revealed and I very much liked the way Candlish handles Rick’s reaction. The Rick we thought we knew changes and becomes more obsessive. And we learn he’s acted similarly in the past. We’re in Rick’s head so we know he has the best of intentions but finds himself getting deeper and deeper in trouble nonetheless.
I found myself less interested in Alex whose story intersects two decades later with Rick’s. Though it wasn’t Rick, but Marina who lived near the nature trail… where (we learn) a woman was killed in 1995.
Alex isn’t particularly likeable and I suspect Candlish does this on purpose. He implies he kinda ‘fell into’ his relationship and marriage to Beth. This phrase stayed with me, “… he caught himself wondering how he had come to have this wife and not the one he’d once fantasized about.” #charming
Interestingly he’s surrounded by equally unlikeable characters, including a single pregnant woman Beth brings into their house. Perhaps this is another reason I didn’t engage with this part of the story.
Alex is our narrator in the present we know he’s keeping secrets and fearful of his past rearing its ugly head but we’re not quite sure what form it will take.
The two stories eventually merge of course and not in the way I expected. I know others will certainly enjoy this twisty read. I did also but I think ultimately I didn’t really care as much as I would have liked about some of the players, from the past and present, so was ultimately unaffected by events that played out.
The Only Suspect by Louise Candlish will be published in Australia in early March 2023 by Simon & Schuster, but available elsewhere already.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.