Good Neighbors

The residents of Maple Street put up a façade of being neighbors anyone would want--concerned parents involved with their children's extracurricular activities and college prep, maintaining their pristine properties and throwing great parties to which everyone is invited. But this endless cycle of keeping up appearances gets turned upside down when the unkempt, indifferent Wilde family moves into this Long Island suburb, in Bram Stoker Award winner Sarah Langan's (Audrey's Door) intensely plotted Good Neighbors.

Set in 2027, Good Neighbors sharply illustrates a suburban murder that defines the 21st century. Former rock star and recovered junkie Arlo Wilde and his beauty queen wife, Gertie, don't really care about fitting in and do little to fix up their dilapidated home. Their children, 12-year-old Julia and eight-year-old Larry, who may be autistic, are a bit wilder, less disciplined than the other Maple Street kids. Gertie finds an unlikely ally in Rhea Schroder, a community college professor and neighborhood "Queen Bee" who makes Gertie her new best friend, confiding intimate details. But friends become enemies when Rhea believes that Gertie isn't as sympathetic as she wants her to be. Rhea turns the entire neighborhood against the Wildes when a vile rumor about Arlo circulates. Blamed for even the smallest infraction, the Wildes become a convenient scapegoat when a sinkhole suddenly opens, destroying property values on Maple Street. A girl's disappearance further riles the neighbors to violence, akin to a mob carrying pitchforks and torches. An eventual murder will have reverberations for generations.

The author uses the sinkhole metaphor to strong effect, as the neighbors' penchant for foul gossip increases. Langan employs cutting wit and a razor-edged perception of people engorged by their capacity for hatred. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer

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