The Other Side of the Wall

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE - ANN DUNNE

An­drea Mara

Pool­beg Crim­son, pa­per­back, 400 pages, €9.99

When things go bump in the night, is it the deliri­ous imag­in­ings of sleep-de­prived pro­tag­o­nist Sylvia, who is up ev­ery night with her cry­ing baby, or is it some­thing more sin­is­ter?

From the out­set, this psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller, by promis­ing new Ir­ish writer An­drea Mara, will have you check­ing that your win­dows and doors are locked at night. In the Dublin sub­urb of Dún Laoghaire, a tod­dler goes miss­ing. Nearby, in her quiet cul-de-sac, Sylvia is jug­gling a dif­fi­cult re­turn to work af­ter parental leave with man­ag­ing her chil­dren. She is com­pletely ex­hausted.

One night she sees a child face-down in the pond next door. She races into the neigh­bour’s gar­den but there is noth­ing there and no­body an­swer­ing the door. There are more strange oc­cur­rences, bro­ken flower pots, a pool of wa­ter on her kitchen floor and ob­jects moved around.

Mean­while, the seem­ingly nice young cou­ple Kate and Sam have re­cently moved in next door. No­body has met them yet, as Kate has taken their two chil­dren to Gal­way for the sum­mer while Sam ren­o­vates the house, with the help of his cousin, Michael. When Kate re­ceives an anony­mous let­ter ac­cus­ing Sam of cheat­ing on her, she heads straight to Dublin and finds ev­i­dence of an­other woman in her house.

Leav­ing a note, she tells Sam not to con­tact her and from there on, they con­duct their cor­re­spon­dence by text mes­sage. Luck­ily, cousin Michael is there as a go-be­tween, even bring­ing the son’s birth­day present from Sam down to Gal­way. The only other per­son who calls to the house is Kate’s brother, who is a bit of a loner and draws the reader’s sus­pi­cion.

But all is not as it seems. A night­mare of Stephen King pro­por­tions is hap­pen­ing next door and we are taken into a dark un­der­world. Sylvia is the only one who is wary of Sam while ev­ery­one else is charmed by him, ex­cept for one other neigh­bour, who also goes miss­ing. As the tension in­creases in this clever plot, Mara in­jects a few red her­rings and many twists and turns. It is not un­til Sylvia and Kate meet that the truth be­gins to un­fold, bring­ing the story to a highly-charged and dra­matic con­clu­sion.

A free­lance writer and award-win­ning blog­ger, Mara lives in Dún Laoghaire with her hus­band and three chil­dren.

She was en­cour­aged to write by Ir­ish au­thor Mar­garet Scott (The Fall­out). The re­sult is this mas­ter­ful de­but, which com­bines the or­di­nary themes of work­ing moth­ers and mod­ern sub­ur­bia, with all the fore­bod­ing malev­o­lence of a Jeffery Deaver novel.

A grip­ping read that is hard to put down and would make a great movie. Her next book is due out in 2018. Can’t wait!

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