The Heights by Louise Candlish

              Ellen Saint knows she isn’t wrong but then how could she be right? After all the man she just spotted, Kieran Watts, can’t possibly be alive. That’s because two years ago she killed him.

              And so begins The Heights, the latest page turner by bestselling author Louise Candlish whose previous book Our House won the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards,

              Saint, a grieving mother, blames Watts for the death of her teenage son. The two teens were best friends and Watts, with all of his charm and deviousness, had corrupted her son and then been with him in the car when he perished. Though it’s been several years since Lucas died, Ellen isn’t ready to forgive. Indeed, whatever happened the first time she set out to destroy Kieran, she doesn’t intend to let that happen again.

              The following is a question and answer between Candlish and Northwest Indiana Times correspondent Jane Ammeson.

JA: The Heights is a revenge novel–and ultimately a very fulfilling one. What inspired it?

Louise Candlish: I had wanted to explore revenge for a while and had the idea of constructing that dynamic around a feud. I love feuds! Reaching for a fresh angle, I became intrigued by the dynamic between an overprotective tiger mother and her teenage son’s ‘bad influence’ best friend. It feels quite primal– having your golden boy stolen from you right under your nose.

JA: How do you plot your novels and how do you keep track of all the twists and turns?

LC: I always plot the main thriller story, the mechanics of the crime, before I start, and I loosely think through the structure and the order of the revelations. Because The Heights is a book within a book, I had a natural framework, which helped me keep my thoughts straight.

JA: Ultimately Ellen became a very likeable character and her pain was so palpable–did you base her character on someone you knew?

LC: That is good to hear as I was a little wary of readers reacting negatively to her because she is clearly neurotic and – how can I put it? – an over-reactor. But she is grieving the loss of a child and I think we all understand that could take us to the brink of human endurance. Even so, I’m surprised by how many people have said to me, ‘I’d do exactly the same if that were my child.’ I hope not!  She’s not based on anyone in particular, though some of the details of her overly involved behaviour are taken from my observations of fellow parents. She’s actually kind of how I would be if I allowed every catastrophic thought to grow, if I acted on every kneejerk emotion.

JA: What made you decide to write a book within a book like the way Ellen is telling the story in her writing class?

LC: I love this device, which appears in some of my favorite books, like Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. I think the conditions of the Covid lockdown, during which The Heights was written, had an impact on the structure. By writing a book within a book I was almost doubling my sense of control over the project, imposing order in the only way I could during a chaotic, uncertain time.

For more information, visit LouiseCandlish.com or connect with her on Twitter @Louise_Candlish.

The Other Passenger: A Mystery-Thriller by Louise Candlish

After a spectacular burnout that caused him to lose his high-paying job, Jamie Buckby has found work as a coffee shop barista, a job that pays much less than his previous career.

But money really isn’t an issue for him. He lives with his girlfriend, a wealthy, successful businesswoman, in her wonderful historic home in a tony London neighborhood. The two have had a long and compatible relationship, but in keeping with the saying there’s no fool like an old fool, Jamie risks it all when he falls for the beautiful, manipulative and much younger Melia.

This being a mystery by bestselling British novelist Louise Candlish, there are plenty of other complications as well in “The Other Passenger.” We watch the story unfold through the eyes of Jamie, who commutes to work by riverboat with his neighbor Kit, who is married to Melia.

Kit and Melia are living well beyond their means, wracking up credit card debts and obviously envious of Jamie’s lifestyle. Then, one day, Kit doesn’t turn up at the boat, and when Jamie arrives at his stop, the police are there waiting for him. Kit’s been reported missing, and another passenger saw Jamie arguing with him on the boat just before he disappeared.

But it’s way too time consuming and difficult for Melia to wait and work hard to achieve her dreams. It’s much better to convince Jamie with promises of money and a life together to help her get rid of her husband. Jamie is foolish enough to believe that’s what Melia really wants. With the police closing in, he soon realizes that Melia has outwitted him and has much different plans in mind.

“There were several inspirations, and that’s how my books are usually conceived — I’ll find a way to marry multiple obsessions,” Candlish said. “I wanted to do a commuter mystery, I wanted to create a ‘Double Indemnity‘ for the 2020s, I was eager to explore the generational warfare between Gen X and millennials. Finally, I felt the need to write a love letter to London life around the River Thames, to capture its dangerous allure.”

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