Book Review

What The Neighbors Saw By Melissa Adelman

What the Neighbors Saw

  • Author: Melissa Adelman
  • Genre: Mystery/Thriller
  • Publication Date: June 20, 2023
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books

Thank you to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: racism, racist microaggressions, death, murder, grief, mention of suicide, mention of murder of a child, body shaming, disordered eating, violence, mention of rape

Desperate Housewives meets The Couple Next Door in a chilling story of murder and intrigue set in a well-to-do DC suburb.

Sometimes the darkest acts occur in the most beautiful houses…

When Alexis and her husband Sam buy a neglected Cape Cod house in an exclusive DC suburb, they are ecstatic. Sam is on the cusp of making partner at his law firm, Alexis is pregnant with their second child, and their glamorous neighbors welcome the couple with open arms. Things are looking up, and Alexis believes she can finally leave her troubled past behind.

But the neighborhood’s picture-perfect image is shattered when their neighbor Teddy – a handsome, successful father of three – is found dead on the steep banks of the Potomac River. The community is shaken, and as the police struggle to identify and apprehend the killer, tension in the neighborhood mounts and long-buried secrets start to emerge.

In the midst of the turmoil, Alexis takes comfort in her budding friendship with Teddy’s beautiful and charismatic widow, Blair. But as the women grow closer, the neighborhood only becomes more divided. And when the unthinkable truth behind Teddy’s murder is finally uncovered, both Blair and Alexis must reexamine their friendship and decide how far they are willing to go to preserve the lives they have so carefully constructed.

I do love a good story about affluent people with serious issues. And this book promised to deliver some juicy ones. It’s been a while since I watched Desperate Housewives, but it was intriguing to see a world that’s so different from the one I live in, a bit over the top, but escapism at its finest. I remembered that at some point, I stopped watching Desperate Housewives, because it got a little too hectic to follow, but I had high hopes for this debut novel. Plus, the cover is gorgeous and I’m a sucker for a pretty cover.

When Sam and Alexis, who is pregnant with their second child, decide to upgrade to a bigger house, they are both surprised and excited to realize that a fixer-upper in an exclusive area that would normally never be within their price range. And I was able to see the problems coming a mile down the road.

As a fixer-upper, the house obviously needs a lot of work. And being situated right smack in the middle of a neighborhood full of glamorous houses and wealthy and powerful neighbors, they start to get caught up in the cycle of keeping up with their neighbors. But their financial situation means they can’t get work done on their house as much as they’d like, and it creates a bunch of resentment and frustration between Sam and Alexis. 

We also get to learn about the neighbors little by little, and what they’re like. For such a perfect-looking neighborhood, it’s hiding some secrets, and the murder of a neighbor shocks the neighborhood within a week of Alexis and Sam moving there. There don’t seem to be any leads, despite the police seeming to work pretty hard on the case.

One of the things that I found really intriguing is the concept of race and how it plays into the story. It isn’t revealed until several chapters in that Alexis is Black, and that there’s only one other non-white neighbor in the cul-de-sac. It adds a subtle level of tension into certain interactions, and one layer of power imbalance into the story. Another power imbalance layer is money, or lack of it, since it’s used as a determinant of status within this little microcosm. And there’s also a power imbalance in the relationship between Alexis and Sam, which builds slowly over the course of the book.

I was intrigued by the central mystery of who killed Teddy, but I was also pulled into learning more about the secrets that the main and side characters were hiding. However, so many of these surprises were anything but. I was able to predict so many of the reveals far in advance, which was disappointing. And the storyline veered pretty far into over the top territory that it felt far too unrealistic to believe. Ultimately, it was a quick read that wasn’t bad, but wasn’t a great story that’s going to stick with me.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 7

4 replies »

  1. Omg you beat me to it! Lol I’m waiting for mac to get me the audio. But I love your review and am more excited, now. If you love the social commentary part? Definitely read Kia Abdullah’s books. She is a mastermind with this. Brilliant thrillers that also make you reflect.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.