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Marwood pens pair of perfectly creepy books

The Killer Next Door is Alex Marwood’s second published novel; her first, The Wicked Girls, I reviewed in July 2013 along with two other debut books I lumped together as being only for readers with the most impregnable constitutions.

These books were each wonderfully written, each bore down painlessly as a root canal, each didn’t want to be read right before bedtime or first thing in the morning. Of the three, Marwood’s was the most positively creepy and deliciously corrupt, and now she’s written another, worse story about the lives of people we don’t want to know even exist. Absolutely intoxicating!

Stephen King says Marwood’s new book is better than last year’s The Wicked Girls and that The Wicked Girls is one of the best books he’s read this year. I’m not a fan of Stephen King, and I would be delighted to disagree with him about which of Marwood’s two books is better. They’re both the work of a woman who is either a genius or in a mental institution, but I will never forget The Wicked Girls, for which Marwood won an Edgar Award last year for the Best Paperback Original, and she will walk away with a satchelful of awards for The Killer Next Door.

Marwood is a Brit, and Brits know how best to write about luckless, discontented people in unsustainable situations.

Nonetheless, I have to apologize on behalf of Penguin Books for titling both of Marwood’s books so infelicitously. The Wicked Girls was indeed about two preteen girls who committed a wicked act, and The Killer Next Door insinuates a killer living nearby. But both titles cheapen the novels; they are far more sophisticated and clearly intended for the erudite fiction reader than the titles tease out.

Both are brilliantly written and beg for the crime fiction reader who has first developed an appetite on pulpier cuisine. Marwood is writing for pros with this one, which of course is why she’s winning prizes.

The six residents of a squalid apartment building in South London all have reason to live in the shadows, and while their slumlord is happy to collect rent in cash, neglect basic maintenance and lech upon the females, the sordid destinies of each unintentionally converge toward desperate acts of self-preservation.

On a hot summer night, the secretive lives of six very different outliers converge over an accidental homicide in the flat of one of them. Six very different reasons prohibit calling the police, drawing the menagerie closer together and unavoidably revealing and manufacturing secrets better left unnoticed. And unbeknownst to five of the six, a bizarre murderer lurks, plots and collects trophies within the walls of 23 Beulah Grove.

The Killer Next Door was released last month, while The Wicked Girls came out in August 2013. You’d stunt your growth as a crime fiction reader if you didn’t read them both.

Jeff@jeffMannix.com. Jeff Mannix is a local journalist and author.

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