The Good Neighbours

Starting work on her new project – photographing murder houses – she returns to the island where she grew up for the first time since she left for Glasgow when she was just eighteen. The Isle of Bute is embedded in her identity, the draughty house that overlooked the bay, the feeling of being nowhere, the memory of her childhood friend Shirley Craigie and the devastating familicide of her family by the father, John Craigie.

Arriving at the Craigie house, Cath finds that it’s occupied by Financial Analyst Alice Rahman. Her bid to escape the city lifestyle, the anxiety she felt in that world, led her to leave London and settle on the island. The strangeness of the situation brings them closer, leading them to reinvestigate the Craigie murder. Now, within the walls of the Craigie house, Cath can uncover the nefarious truths and curious nature of John Craigie: his hidden obsession with the work of Richard Dadd and the local myths of the fairy folk.

The Good Neighbours is an enquiry into the unknowability of the past and our attempts to make events fit our need to interpret them; the fallibility of recollection; the power of myths in shaping human narratives. Nina Allan skilfully weaves the imagined and the real to create a magically haunting story of memory, obsession and the liminal spaces that our minds frequent to escape trauma.

brown wooden house on green grass

When Ana McLaughlin let me know about the #TheGoodNeighbours Blog Tour, I bit her hand off. I absolutely love Nina Allen’s writing and couldn’t wait to see what she was going to do next. I actually read it in full the day I received it, my anticipation had really reached fever pitch and I couldn’t wait any longer. Let me just tell you that The Good Neighbours did not disappoint.

forest photography

The cover is absolutely stunning and hints at the darkness within the heart of John Craigie’s obsession with Richard Dadd and his mythology– if you are a fan of Nina’s writing, you’ll discover that the familiar feeling of things going on below the surface start to emerge and we see that all in not quite what it appears to be…

red apple beside opened book

I love a book where things are not quite as they seem and I’d have to say that once I was three chapters into this fascinating read I was absolutely invested and could not stop reading. It is rare to be able to dedicate a whole day to reading at this time of the year if you are a teacher – never mind in the middle of a COVID return to school. But this book had me hooked and I just could not stop until I’d found out everything I needed to know and discovered if my suspicions would be confirmed. I really want to chat with someone else who’s read it now as I am keen to see if their thoughts aligned with mine as the story unfolded. It is an absolute belter of a read and I promise you that you won’t be able to stop thinking about the Craigie murder and the way things begin to unravel.

brown wooden welcome to the beach signage

The thriller’s enduring popularity really means that writers have to think outside the box if they want their readers to be genuinely captivated by the twists and turns of their latest read and I am happy to report that Nina Allen manages this with skill and originality. I am also determined to ensure that there are no spoilers as this ending really is worth the wait. I am a literal true crime addict and this felt like getting a fix of something absolutely real. It is one of those novels that you finish and feel like googling as you are so convinced that the events actually happened. I absolutely loved it and think that it would make another superb movie adaptation. I’m surreptitiously casting it in my mind’s eye right now…

I absolutely love a novel where we get the past blurring with the present and Cath’s past begins to emerge in such a way as you soon become aware that there’s more to this unfolding narrative than meets the eye, but several wonderfully contrasting characters that play with your mind and make you really think hard about the power of memory and hiw much we really can trust the subjective way that we experience things that happened in our past. The way that the clues are cleverly scattered in such a way as to misdirect and beguile you by Nina Allen made for compelling reading that never let you relax for one moment – something else that sets her aside from other more run of the mill writers. The characters are not mere devices to advance the plot but really are people we ‘meet’ in its telling. The story that is uncovered is all the more affecting as we care about the people it’s happening to and Cath’’s situation and everything that starts to be revealed about her childhood friendship and the truth sbout the Craigie murders is much more effective because we actually feel that we’ve got to know her as a real person.

brown wooden bridge over river

As I said, I read this in a single day, being utterly loath to drag myself away from the twists and turns of this situation that we are drawn into. I love books that are even better than the one you’ve been anticipating and I have to say that this novel was definitely her best yet. This book is the narrative equivalent of a kaleisoscope – you know that there’s more going on below the surface and try as you might to decipher exactly why it is, things keep shifting before your very eyes and the final picture eludes you right to the very end. And perhaps even afterwards…

green grass field with trees under white sky during daytime

I think it’s difficult to make a book genuinely original without seeming to try too hard or feel contrived – but The Good Neighbours manages the perfect balance of a twisty pageturner and a realistic portrayal of characters and setting that you actually feel like you are meeting on the page. A great read that will keep you up too late and genuinely keep you on the edge of your seat. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and cannot wait to see what Nina does next…

Buy yourself a copy here

Her literary sensibility fuses the fantastic and the mundane to great effect ― Guardian (on The Dollmaker)

Nina Allan weaves a haunting, intricate tale that masterfully blurs genre lines. You’ll want to savour every page ― CultureFly (2021 picks)

A captivating exploration of community, tragedy and memory. Nina Allan’s writing is enthralling. — Irenosen Okojie

A compulsive and twisting read . . . Nina Allan has created a surging and artistic narrative that lingers like a cold breath down your neck at the turn of the last page. — Fiona Murphy ― Mummy Pages

a compelling murder mystery filled with superstition, fairy folk and murder houses, set on Nina’s beloved Isle of Bute … spellbinding ― Scots Magazine

A masterful new novel by author of The Dollmaker, about a mysterious murder on a Scottish island and the nefarious influence of the fairy people known as ‘the good neighbours’.

Writer On The Shelf

Nina Allan is a novelist and critic. Her first novel The Race won the Grand Prix de L’imaginaire and was a Kitschies finalist. Her second novel The Rift won the British Science Fiction Award, the Kitschies Red Tentacle and was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her short fiction has previously been shortlisted for the Hugo Award, the Shirley Jackson Award and the British Fantasy Award. Her most recent novel is The Dollmaker. Born in London, Nina Allan lives and works in the west of Scotland.

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